MAYNARD – Town Administrator Greg Johnson and the Maynard Public Health Division would like to notify residents about tick safety after a Maynard resident recently contracted and was diagnosed with the tick-borne illness the Powassan virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Powassan virus disease is a rare, but often severe disease caused by a virus spread to people by infected ticks. The number of reported cases of people sick from Powassan virus has increased in recent years. Powassan virus belongs to a group of viruses that can cause infection of the brain (encephalitis) or the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
The disease is not communicable, and the best defense is to protect yourself against ticks and tick bites.
“There is no longer a tick time of year. We used to think that when the first frost came that ticks die off and we are safe from them, but we know now that is not the case,” said Maynard Health Agent Kelly Pawluczonek. “Tick bites are happening all year long and the diseases and viruses that are associated with a tick bite can become difficult long-term medical issues. Residents must protect themselves from tick bites by checking themselves for ticks daily year round. Residents should also use bug spray/bug repellent when outdoors and wear light colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen.”
The Maynard Board of Health has tick identification cards and tick “pickers” (a tool used to remove embedded ticks) available in the Office of Municipal Services at Town Hall for residents.
Although tick bites can happen at any time of the year, they are especially prevalent from April to September.
To prevent contact with ticks and avoid tick-borne illnesses, the Maynard Public Health Division recommends the following tips provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter — ticks wait in vegetation and attack from below.
- Keep a tidy yard.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin or IR3535 on exposed skin, being sure to follow product instructions.
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check areas carefully where ticks like to hide — between the toes, backs of the knees, groin, armpits, neck, along the hairline, and behind the ears.
- Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats and gear.
- If you find a tick attached to your skin, don’t panic. Use a pair of fine point tweezers to grip the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out with steady pressure.
- You should not apply kerosene, petroleum jelly, nail polish, or a hot match tip to remove the tick. These measures are not effective and may result in injury.
- Circle the calendar date and note where on the body the tick was removed. You may want to save the tick for identification.
- Your physician may choose to treat you following a deer tick bite. Notify your healthcare provider if you have been bitten by a deer tick or if you develop a rash or other signs of illness following a tick bite.
Common Symptoms of Tick-related Illnesses
If you have been bitten by a tick, the most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:
- Fever/chills: With all tick-borne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tick-borne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue and muscle aches. With Lyme disease, patients may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: Tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can all result in distinctive rashes.
Tick-borne diseases can result in mild symptoms to severe infections. Although treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. Early recognition and treatment of these infections decreases the risk of serious complications. See your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.
For more information about ticks and tick-related illnesses, visit the CDC website or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website. For more information about Powassan virus disease click here.