Sapi notes the mild winter on the east coast and says: “We have a bad year for the ticks.”
Hikers, campers and anyone else who is anxious about an escape could “just explode in the wild. And there may not be the same thought-provoking strategy” to prevent exposure, Dr. Sorana Segal-Maurer, Head of Dr. James J. Rahal, Jr. Division of Infectious Diseases of the NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Health Care System.
“I’m a little nervous that their guard may just be down,” she adds.
Outdoor crowds were so great around Memorial Day weekend that parks from Southern California to North Carolina had to close early after hitting capacity.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an increase in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, with seven additional bacteria identified in the United States over the past two decades, while “Lone Star Signs” expanded its footprint beyond the southeast to the northern states and the Midwest.
But ignoring basic steps that reduce the risk of ticks and vector-borne diseases to focus solely on Covid-19 prevention is just a danger. Another is the possibility of confusing the symptoms if you start to feel ill.
Lyme disease and Covid-19: a story of similar symptoms
Warning signs for tick-borne diseases are “very similar to the severity we have seen with Covid-19, which is fever, muscle pain, headache, severe fatigue,” says Dr. Segal-Maurer.
She believes that a unique difference is that breathing problems are common in coronavirus patients, but not in those infected with tick-borne diseases. Yet this distinction is debated.
“Pulmonary involvement, even fatal, has been documented in a number of tick-borne infections,” Dr. Steven Phillips from the Bay Area Lyme Foundation to CNN. “Although severe lung involvement with vector-borne infections is relatively uncommon, non-specific lung disorders, such as shortness of breath, are extremely common.”
Even if you follow Covid-19 tips, it is equally important to follow the tips to avoid biting. Dr. Segal-Maurer describes a “realistic” scenario if you are on a full hike: “You will all be pushing into the vegetation … you will just be a little out of the way.”
Ticks “hang from the tip of the grass or the leaf or the vegetation, and they have these little feelings that they … kind of shake out there. So the other you brush at, they get stuck on.”
Last month, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health announced Rachel Levine an increase in emergency room visits in recent months “related” to tick bites. “Some symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever, chills and headaches, are similar to symptoms of COVID-19,” Dr. Levine in a statement and repeated what other experts say.
Go outside – but responsibly
Dr. Segal-Maurer says that healthcare professionals always need to ask patients about their travels and other activities. “You have to cover all your basics … we don’t want to be Covid-blinded.”
Patients should, in turn, also ask about both options.
And when it comes to protecting yourself from ticks, she says, “You have to use DEET. It has to be 30%. You have to look where you are walking. And then you have to do a body check when you come in again.”
Dr. Phillips prefers permethrin, which he says is stronger, but “can only be sprayed on clothes, not on skin, and should be allowed to dry overnight before wearing.”
Other tips include wearing hats, bright clothing to make ticks easier to spot, placing socks over your pants and choosing long-sleeved shirts to prevent ticks from getting close to your skin.
Of course, it is in addition to wearing a mask to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Even with the extra hassle of a safer summer trip, Dr. Segal-Mauer people to go outside this summer because she thinks “it’s been such a traumatic several months. I think the great outdoors is a very healing place.”