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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Lyme Disease in the USA (New York)

02 Jan 2017

At least 186 cases of Lyme disease have been reported to the Erie County Department of Health in 2016, this is higher than the record 71 cases reported in 2015.

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, is spread to humans primarily by ticks. The high number of cases in the county is attributed to an increased number of infected ticks that have migrated from Presque Isle State Park where they were first discovered in the county in the 1980s.

Advice for Travellers

There is no vaccine available against Lyme disease.

Preventing Tick Bites and Transmission of Lyme Disease

  • Be aware of the risk of tick bites. Risk areas include woodland, moorland, parkland, heaths and gardens particularly if deer and sheep are present, as although these animals do not carry Lyme disease, ticks feed on them and they play an important role in the population and transportation of ticks.
  • Ticks feed mainly in the spring and summer in the northern hemisphere.
  • Activities such as camping, picnics, hiking and cycling can increase exposure to ticks.
  • Ticks adhere to the ends of grasses, vegetation and foliage and are easily transferred to humans as they brush past, sit/lie on the grass. Keep to the footpath where possible and do not sit directly on the grass.
  • Practice insect bite avoidance: protect the skin; wear long trousers/sleeves and tuck trouser bottoms into socks.
  • Use an effective repellent on any exposed skin.
  • Clothing can be pre-treated with permethrin insecticide for added protection.
  • Wear light coloured clothing as it is easier to see the ticks against a light background.
  • After outdoor activities, examine the skin for ticks. Immature ticks are about the size of a pin head before they feed so may easily be missed. Adults are larger and can be seen more easily.
  • When checking for ticks it is important to inspect warm, moist areas like the skin behind the knees, elbows and groin area and to check others for hard-to-reach areas like the back and scalp. Check children with particular care - they are more likely to have ticks on the neck, scalp and behind the ears.
  • Remove the tick as soon as possible as it does not feed immediately and transmission of infection may be avoided if it is removed before it feeds.
  • Do not cover the tick in any substance before removing e.g. petroleum jelly, oil or lotion and do not attempt to burn the tick.
  • Ticks can be removed with tweezers or a proprietary remover (available from vets or pharmacies). Grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull steadily in a vertical direction; try not to squeeze the body of the tick as this may transmit infection.
  • After removal of the tick, wash the area with soap and water.
  • Make sure that ticks are not carried home on clothing, children or the family pet dog.
  • If you develop a rash around the tick bite or feel unwell, consult your doctor and tell them that you have been bitten by a tick.