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Lyme Disease Fact Sheet
Senator Pam Helming is recognizing Lyme Disease Awareness Month during May by highlighting several of the ways in which people can keep themselves safe and help prevent Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. With the temperatures getting warmer and the daylight hours getting longer, people will be outdoors more for work and recreation. Outdoor activity increases their risk of coming into contact with ticks and contracting a disease. New York State continues to be a hotbed for Lyme and tick-borne diseases, with more than 8,700 cases as of 2017, while the Finger Lakes region experienced 365 of those cases in that year.

"Lyme and other tick-borne diseases continue to be a prevalent threat across our region and around our state. Since taking office as State Senator, I have proudly advocated on behalf of those suffering from these illnesses as well as the medical and public health professionals working with them. Last year, my Senate colleagues and I have provided historic funding for research into Lyme and tick-borne diseases and enacted measures aimed at preventing and treating these illnesses. Unfortunately, the new Senate Majority did not provide funding in the budget to help combat this growing public health concern. Regardless, I will keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and local grassroots organizations to educate people on how to keep themselves safe from ticks and to support those who have developed illnesses related to ticks. This issue impacts every area of our state, from upstate to downstate. True prevention starts with knowing how to protect yourself from ticks. I am proud to join the New York State Department of Health and local Lyme and tick-borne diseases advocates to raise awareness in recognition of Lyme Disease Awareness Month," Helming said.

The New York State Department of Health offers the following tips to keep you and your family safe as you venture outdoors:

  • Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
  • Use insect repellent.
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
  • Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day, and remove ticks promptly. Also check children and pets.

According to the Department of Health, not all ticks can cause disease and not all bites will make you sick, but as these diseases become more common it is important to learn how to prevent a bite, how to remove a tick, and what to do if you think you could have a tick-borne disease. Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in New York State, but there are other serious diseases spread by ticks. Like Lyme, the other diseases are spreading to other regions across the state.

Ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush, and shrubs, usually no more than 18 to 24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected area. In tick-infested areas, your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter, and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself.

As the former Senate Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources and a member of the Senate's Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, Helming hosted an Informational Forum on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases in September 2017 in Canandaigua. At this event, a panel of experts, including representatives from Cornell University, SUNY Upstate Medical University, the Ontario County Public Health Department, and SUNY Adirondack, presented to more than 150 people and answered their questions. When asked if they had been personally affected by Lyme or tick-borne diseases or knew someone who was, the vast majority of the audience raised their hands.

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