PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Health Department is warning people to be more cognizant about ticks.
The department has been ramping up a public education campaign to help inform people the best ways to protect themselves. The effort is in response to an increasing number of tick-borne illnesses being reported.
"While we have traditionally shared information about tickborne illness prevention, we ramped up our efforts this year due to an increase in cases related to tick bites. We want residents to be diligent about personal protection, safeguarding their pets, and minimizing tick habitats," said Health Director Gina Armstrong
"We know that these steps can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience."
Some of those tips include wearing repellent, checking daily for ticks, showing after being outdoor, and calling the doctor if you experience a rash or fever. The department is expanding on those tips through a video posted online, will be placing signage in parks, and going into schools and having a table at Third Thursday to spread the information.
Residents should check themselves for ticks after being outside because it takes 24 hours of the arachnid being attached — likely to heads, neck, and ears where the skin is thinner — to a host to infect them with the disease. If one is found attached, health officials recommend pulling it out with tweezers and then saving it to send to the laboratory to be tested.
Public Health Nurse Kayla Donnelly-Winters has been keeping a close eye on tick-borne illnesses after noticing a steady increase over recent years. In the winter she attended a conference and developed the education plan.
"Lyme, HGA, and babesiosis, have increased from 2016 to 2017. I saw a few more cases of Lyme in the past day or two. That Lyme case makes 113, 114 now compared to 87 last year," Public health nurse Kayla Donnelly-Winters said in late November.
The year ended with 127 reported cases of Lyme disease, 34 cases of human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and two cases of babesiosis. But, health officials say that is only a portion of the cases reported. Lyme disease, for example, is historically under-reported by providers.
Back in 2014, there were only 51 cases of Lyme in Pittsfield. That jumped to 82 in 2016.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses peak between May and July.
Meanwhile, the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at the University of Massachusetts will test ticks for the presence of diseases at a cost of $15. The tick can be sent there through its website.
Through there city's website, there are a number of information sheets including details of the various tick-borne illnesses, how to properly remove ticks, and prevention techniques.
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