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Why the tick season can be worse summer Covid-19

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.

Warmer weather means it's time to be aware of ticking

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.

The CDC’s guide to visiting parks and recreational facilities in the Covid-19 era includes avoiding crowded parks, staying at home if you are infected, and choosing parks closer to home to limit extra stops that pose an increased risk of infection.

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.

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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.”

The National Park Service, which welcomes more than 300 million people during a normal year, continues its “phased” reopening of land and services. It started a “Create Responsibly” campaign, reminding visitors not only about social distancing at paths, boat launches and parking spaces, but encourages guests to postpone difficult hikes or new activities, with first responders and others still busy with pandemic responses.
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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

Hikers walking along a paved trail in Utah's Zion National Park, Utah, which had been closed due to the pandemic.
As with coronavirus, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease is probably understaffed. While the CDC estimates 30,000 Americans contract Lyme each year, the federal agency notes that the latest estimates suggest that the actual number may be ten times higher, about 300,000.

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.

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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.”

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