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Ticks and Lyme Disease

(Photo - Deer Tick) Ticks are unusually prevalent this year, especially in the tall grass and brush that lines SLAC’s roads. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, so it's important to protect yourself anytime you venture off the road.

Wearing lightly colored, tightly woven clothes, long pants tucked into your socks and long-sleeved shirts will make it difficult for ticks to attach themselves to you. Since ticks live on grasses or bushes, staying on wide paths away from overhanging foliage will also decrease the chance of being bitten. Lastly, carefully inspect of all skin surfaces after spending time on hillsides or in woodlands to decrease the chance of Lyme disease transmission. Once embedded in your skin, a tick must complete its feeding cycle before it can transmit the disease. This takes between 24 and 48 hours.

If you find a tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Align the tweezers with the tick's angle of entry, grasp firmly and pull out smoothly in order to remove the tick completely. Try not to twist or squeeze. Wash your hands and the area with soap and water before and after removing a tick.

If possible, record the date, the body location, and where you think you contracted the tick. Preserve the tick on a moistened piece of cotton in an airtight container and take it to your physician or to the San Mateo County Public Health Department Lab (650-573-2500) to identify the species and check for the presence of Lyme disease. It is estimated that between 3% and 5% of ticks in the coastal hills of San Mateo and Santa Clara County may carry the bacteria.

The best treatment is prevention. With the steps outlined above, you should be able to enjoy our beautiful natural areas without worrying about the possibility of developing Lyme disease. More information is available at the CDC website.

—Dr. Maria Gherman
   SLAC Today, June 13, 2006