SATURDAY, April 22, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- More and more Americans are developing Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, and people need to do more to prevent tick bites, which occur most often in May, June and July, experts say.
The number of cases of Lyme disease increased from 11,700 cases in 1995 to 21,304 cases in 2005, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also notes that Lyme disease is "greatly underreported."
Lyme disease, transmitted through the bite of a deer tick, is found across the United States and is most common in the Northeast and upper Midwest. The illness can cause serious health problems if not treated early.
Another tick-borne disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, is potentially fatal. The number of cases increased from 695 in 2001 to 1,843 last year. This disease is most common in the South, with the highest incidence in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Simple precautions can help protect against tick bites.
"When you're out in the woods, or even in your backyard, from early May to early July, when the nymphal (young) ticks that carry Lyme disease are most active, you should use a repellent such as DEET on exposed skin and clothing," CDC entomologist Marc Dolan said in a prepared statement.
"Young ticks are very small and difficult to spot, which is another reason why Lyme disease is such a problem," Dolan said.
- Wear long pants and tuck the pant cuffs under your socks.
- Light-colored clothing can make it easier to spot ticks.
- After being outdoors, do a thorough tick check. If a tick is attached to the skin for less than 24 hours, there's an extremely low risk of infection. When doing a tick check, closely examine clothing and skin. Pay special attention to the ears, in and around the hair, under the arms, behind the knees, around the waist, and between the legs.
- If you spot a tick, detach it properly using tweezers. Incorrect removal can increase the risk of infection.
The CDC has more tick tips.