Lyme Disease is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there were over 27,000 cases of Lyme Disease in the U.S. in 2013, a number many believe to be underreported. As numbers rise steadily for the past two years, more awareness and better diagnosing are needed. While reported cases of Lyme Disease in Texas had been on a decline for a few years, the risk is real. The Texas Lyme Disease Association (TXLDA) sites frequent misdiagnosis and strict reporting criteria making official statistic inaccurate. They say between 600-900 people request help from them annually, dwarfing the numbers reported by the CDC.
False Belief You Are Not at Risk for Lyme in Texas
Despite popular opinion, Lyme Disease is a real threat in Texas. Bio News Texas reported that a 2014 study found that 45% of the deer ticks (the tick responsible for transmitting Lyme Disease) collected in the Texas-Mexico transboundary region were carrying the Lyme bacteria. The report indicated that there was a “higher probability of occurrence along the Gulf of Mexico coast."
The Texas Lyme Disease Association (TXLDA) receives two to three requests per day from people with symptoms or confirmed Lyme Disease, seeking medical help. These numbers tripled from 2013-2014 and are expected to continue to increase. Early diagnosis of Lyme Disease is vital to curing Lyme Disease patients and has been a challenge among Texas physicians. The TXLDA sites doctors’ belief that Lyme Disease is rare in Texas as a factor in the challenge Texans face in getting Lyme diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion. Note in the image below from the TAMU Lyme Lab, that the Austin area had the highest number of reported human cases of Lyme Disease from 2000-2010 — imagine what the real number of Lyme Diseaes cases might be.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
The symptoms of Lyme Disease can include fatigue, low grade fever, chills, night sweats, sore throat, swollen glands, stiff neck, joint pain, muscle pain, chest pain & palpitations (Lyme carditis), diarrhea, sleep disturbance, back pain, depression, facial numbness (bell’s palsy), headaches, dizziness, and general flu like symptoms. About half of patients will get a bulls-eye rash at the site of the bite mark. Symptoms can come on as late as eight weeks after the tick bite. With early treatment of antibiotics most patients will fully recover, but if Lyme Disease goes untreated patients can experience Chronic Lyme Disease for months or even years. While rare, if Lyme Disease goes untreated it can lead to death.
Lyme Disease Prevention in Texas
Limiting your exposure to deer ticks is the best method of preventing Lyme Disease in humans. Deer ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, making noticing them very difficult, so prevention is vital. There are many things you can do to protect yourself from being bitten by a tick. Remembering the 6 C’s of tick proofing your yard is a great way to do protect yourself and your family.
1. Clear out
Reduce your exposure to ticks by clearing out lawn debris. Ticks thrive in moist shady areas. Keep compost piles away from recreation or high traffic areas.
Mow your grass regularly, keeping it nice and short. Clean up grass clippings and leaf litter to avoid giving ticks a place to stay cool and moist.
3. Choose plants
Deter deer by choosing plants that are not attractive to them, or install physical barriers such as fencing to keep them out. Check with your local nursery to determine the best deer repelling plants for your area.
4. Check hiding places
Ticks love to hide along the bases of fences, brick walls and patio walls. Check those hiding places frequently to eliminate ticks that may have gathered.
5. Care for family pets
Pets can be infected with tick-borne diseases too. They also can carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick medication. As with all pest control products, follow the directions carefully.
6. Call in the Pros
Mosquito Squad of Greater Austin can eliminate 85-90% of the ticks in your yard with our traditional barrier spray and tick tube treatment. By eliminating ticks on contact with barrier spray and nymph ticks where they nest with tick tubes, you can protect yourself, your pets and your family. Call today 512-717-6606 to find out more.
Read our tick control page for more information about ticks in Austin.