We have a large potential for increased cases of Lyme disease all across Pennsylvania, New York and other northeastern states this year. Some health experts expect 2012 to be the worst on record. There were over 40,000 documented cases of Lyme disease in the United States in 2011. The debilitating effects of Lyme disease on the human body are becoming more known each year. Many cases of Lyme disease have been misdiagnosed and folks have suffered for it; some for many years.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by an infected blacklegged tick. I have read stories where almost all blacklegged ticks are infected. The name Lyme disease comes from Lyme, Conn., where the disease was first discovered some years ago.
There are ways to protect yourself from being bitten by a blacklegged (deer) tick. Before we get to that, you may be surprised to learn that the 2010 abundant crop of acorns is the primary reason for the tick population increase, along with a mild winter in 2011-2012. The primary mammal host for the blacklegged tick is the white-footed mouse. These mice thrive on acorns as their primary food source.
Since the 2011 acorn crop was sparse, this spring the secondary phase of the tick, known as nymphs, will be looking for their second warm-blooded meal, which puts more humans at risk since the white-footed mouse populations declined. In 2010 Pennsylvania had the largest number of Lyme disease reported in the United States.
The first thing you need to know is where ticks are found and where they are not present. You are quite safe on a lawn or in a pasture. Ticks live along the edges where yards border wooded areas, or where the area is shaded and there are leaves with high humidity. Ticks are also found in thickets and woods.
Ticks cannot fly, they crawl up on a body. Thus, avoid sitting directly on the ground, or on woodpiles or fallen logs. I have also seen hornets and wasps attack folks sitting in these places.
I have been wearing specially treated clothing for the last several years when fishing, hunting or hiking. I have bought those clothes at L.L. Bean. They seem to have the lowest prices. The brand of clothing is Insect Shield. This clothing is treated with a special substance to repel ticks, ants, mosquitoes, flies, chiggers and midges. The clothing repellent last through 70 washings, up from 25 washing when it was first introduced to me some years ago. The repellency is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. You can find lots of further information by going to this website: www.insectshield.com. There are lots of other products available using the Insect Shield technology that you can review on this website including hammocks, tents, chairs, kids outdoor apparel, etc.
I have been wearing the long pants and shirts; this year there is now available socks and hats. I am wearing that stuff for the past month as Linda and I hike and bike. She is using that gear also. One thing we both tried last week on the Pine Creek Rail-Trail is the item which folds like a large handkerchief and you can use as a scarf. We tied those around our neck and the bugs left us immediately.
If you are going to be outdoors, I strongly urge you to take precautions against ticks. I have met and read about several folks with Lyme disease and the suffering they are going through or did until they got the right diagnosis and treatment. Sadly, not even that will eliminate the suffering of Lyme disease in all cases. I kept that fact in mind when looking at spending $89 for a pair of pants. As I asked myself this question: "Are you worth it?" The answer came easily; of course the answer is YES I AM.
Another thing one can in addition to wearing specially treated clothing is to use an insect repellent that repels ticks. I do not wear long pants in the summer while playing golf or trail bike riding so the insect repellent is great.
There is a lot more on this subject and you should do your own study on it. No one should have to suffer the effects of Lyme disease, and that is a fact.
Jim Collins is an outdoor columnist for The Sunday Review. He can be contacted by e-mail at jimcollinsinsurance@frontier.net or by mail at Outdoors with Jim Collins, HC, 1; Box 60, Alba, Pa. 16910.