Beware of ticks!

Submitted by Pamela Johnson Baughman (pajgriffin@comcast.net)

GALDA tick by LSchmitz

May is Archaeology Month in the state of Georgia, and also Historic Preservation Month, but did you also know that May is Lyme and Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month?

The Georgia Lyme Disease Association (GALDA) sponsors this month to promote awareness about these diseases as well as encourage prevention practices. Find more information online here, where you can find resources, stories, statistics, and articles detailing the signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases.

In the Southeast, a tick* can carry one or more of over a dozen diseases. Scientists have documented the Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, in thousands of southern ticks and animals. However, in addition to the Lyme bacteria, ticks may carry and transmit many other bacteria and viruses. It is possible for a person or animal to be infected by more than one of these pathogens at the same time from a single tick bite, and treatment may be different for the various diseases.

Most people catch Lyme disease from the bite of an infected nymphal tick. Nymphs are the size of poppy seeds, and their bites can be relatively painless. The longer an infected tick is attached, the greater the chance it will pass a disease. Ticks should be removed properly as soon as possible to prevent infection.

Symptoms of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are many and varied and often imitate other diseases. Unfortunately, tests for tick-borne diseases such as Lyme are often unreliable during early infection, but treating Lyme disease as soon as possible is extremely important. If you suspect a tick-borne disease infection, find an educated doctor and request a diagnostic test.

Prevention is also key. In Georgia, ticks may be active year round, but they are most active on calm, cool, damp (humid) days over 60 degrees. You can engage in some prevention by avoiding tick infested areas, using tick/bug sprays, and checking yourself thoroughly after venturing outside.

* Ticks are small arachnids (technically not insects) related to spiders; tick species are found world-wide. For more information, check the GALDA website here.