AUGUSTA — May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and for good reason.
Public health officials are reminding people to be proactive in preventing the disease as warmer weather brings more outside activities.
Late spring and early summer is when deer ticks enter the “nymph” stage of growth, when their bite is most likely to transmit Lyme disease to humans.
Lyme disease in Maine has been on the rise over the last five years, according to Dr. Stephen Sears, director of the State of Maine Department of Epidemiology.
“We are seeing on average 700 to 1,000 cases of Lyme disease each year in the state (for the past five years),” he said. It is most prevalent in York and Cumberland counties and the Midcoast area.
Symptoms include arthritis, possible neurological problems and severe fatigue. The disease is curable, Sears said. Antibiotics are most effective when administered as soon as possible after contracting the disease.
The best way to avoid getting Lyme disease, according to Sears, is to reduce contact with the deer tick by all exposed skin with clothing and/or insect repellent. Particularly effective are repellents with the chemical DEET.
“Ticks are quite mobile when they first make contact with your skin,” Sears said. “They will usually move around a lot before they administer their bite. I recommend people to check one another for ticks after being in the outdoors, and to focus on areas that are harder to readily see,” such as armpits.
A telling sign of being infected is bull’s-eye shaped rash that can sometimes be 4 to 5 inches across, Sears said. If infection is suspected, obtain medical care as soon as possible.
For more information about Lyme disease, consult the Maine Center for Disease Control website, or call 1-800-821-5821.