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Experts urge taking steps to prevent tick bites


BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Vermont health officials say the prevalence of tick-borne diseases continues to increase and are advising people to take precautions now as the peak season for ticks gets underway.

“Your body can’t really rest, can’t heal when it’s in that much pain all the time,” said Rebecca Vickery, an Essex woman who has been battling Lyme disease for years.

Most people who are infected with the illness can be treated with several weeks of antibiotics, but research shows up to 10% of people will experience long-term symptoms. “You might feel like fluish, or you might feel like cramping and your muscles or you might feel like your joints are swollen and like you can’t move, or you might feel all of those things at once,” Vickery said.

The Vermont Department of Health’s Natalie Kwit says over 1,000 cases of tick-borne illnesses are reported in Vermont every year. “We just happen to be in one of those states that have the major vector for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, hard tick relapsing fever, and Powassan virus disease,” Kwit said.

She says that because of climate change, ticks are active for longer, resulting in more ticks and more infections. While numbers can vary, the department found in 2021 that over half the ticks they collected were infected with tick bite illness pathogens, making prevention that much more important. “You want to stick to the middle of trails. You want to protect yourself by wearing long sleeves and pants,” Kwik said.

Experts also recommend wearing EPA-registered tick repellent, treating outdoor clothing with permethrin, checking your body and your pets’ bodies for ticks, and showering after you venture outside. “Remove ticks promptly with fine-tip tweezers and monitor yourself for up to 30 days for signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease,” Kwit said.

Back in Essex, Vickery says if you’re feeling sick, don’t hesitate to get tested. “Keep looking for answers. Your health does matter. It is important. You are not alone,” she said.

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