Brenda Boleyn, retired professor of biology from Truro, MA, shared her knowledge and expertise as Chairman of the Cape Cod and Islands Lyme Disease Task Force, to over 20 people at the Cedar Key library on Saturday, February 26. Brenda referred to Cape Cod as “tick heaven” and talked briefly about the Lyme Disease epidemic in New England. Though admittedly more experienced in dealing with ticks and Lyme Disease in New England, according to Brenda, there are more similarities in the southeast and northeast than differences. One of the main differences is tick peak activity. Here in Florida peak activity is October through May, whereas in New England it is spring and fall, though ticks can be active year round in Florida.
It was an informative hour and the topics covered included educating the audience on how to identify the five tick species in Florida and the diseases they can transmit to humans, including RMSF (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), Ehrlichiosis and Lyme Disease, and another similar new disease called STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness). We learned that Lyme Disease is alive and well in Florida and that awareness of the risk is very poor. If diagnosed early, Lyme Disease is relatively easy to treat, but that later stages of the disease are difficult to treat and cure.
According to Brenda, if you find you have been bitten by a tick, remove it as soon as possible with tweezers or a tick tool, and put the tick in a Ziploc plastic bag and take it to your doctor. Treatment commonly prescribed is the antibiotic doxycycline and may be prescribed to prevent the disease from occurring. But the best method of all is to avoid being bitten by a tick in the first place. Avoid areas infested by ticks (keep to trails), wear light colored clothing and tuck in your trouser bottoms in your socks and your shirt in your trousers. DEET products may be applied to the skin up to 30% concentration (probably less on children) and that permethrin to outside clothing only, not directly on skin. We learned that 100% DEET is not more effective in repelling ticks and definitely should not be applied to the skin. Once out of the woods do a tick check. The ticks most implicated in carrying Lyme Disease (Deer and Lone Star ticks) are tiny and most people cannot feel them crawling on their skin. Ticks cannot transmit disease unless they bite. Most, if not all, of the ticks will get on a person between the ankle and the knee and if you find one higher on your body, the tick has crawled there.
Brenda is now a member of our Friends group and plans on attending our annual meeting on March 5.
Report prepared by Friends member, Donna Thalacker