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Lyme disease:
Take precautions, then relax

May 9, 1996
Web posted at: 9 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Andrew Holtz

Ticks

HUNTERDON COUNTY, New Jersey (CNN) -- It's spring -- the season to burst outdoors, stroll through the woods, spruce up the backyard and, in some parts of the United States, worry about tick bites and Lyme disease.

In Hunterdon County, New Jersey, the landscape looks downright idyllic. At one home nestled in the woods, deer stroll across the lawn, leaving a well-worn path. But the county's medical officer, John Beckley, points out a hidden threat: ticks that can carry Lyme disease.

At his office, Beckley advises people like Barbara Ackerman. After a deer tick was found on her granddaughter, she had urgent questions about Lyme.

"We've got one of the highest risk counties in the (country)," Beckley told Ackerman, but, he reassured her, "It's readily treatable."

Lyme disease locations

While public health experts say they'd like people to be concerned enough to take steps to prevent getting tick bites, they don't want them to become so fearful that they cease to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, most infections occur not in remote woods, but close to home.

Rash

Before heading into wooded areas, John Beckley tucks his pant legs into his socks. "By doing that," he said, "You prevent any ticks that might get on you from getting inside your pant leg."

He also sprays his clothes with a strong repellent. Repellent containing "Deet" is recommended for exposed skin.

After traipsing around the outdoors or doing yard work, Beckley advises careful self-inspection. It takes ticks as long as a day to settle in and begin gorging, so there's ample time to find them.

If a tick is attached, experts say, don't squeeze or burn the body. Use tweezers to grab it at the skin and gently pull it free.

Just one bite out of a hundred causes a rash, fever or other signs of infection. Antibiotic treatment can usually eliminate the bacteria, though some symptoms may linger.

"In my estimation," said Dr. Leonard Sigel of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, "personal precautions are the most important thing to do to avoid Lyme disease." If you take that advice, experts say, you can relax.

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