A change in clothing, some bug spray and avoiding wooded areas are some preventative measures one can take to avoid being bitten by a tick that could be carrying Lyme disease, an expert at the University of South Carolina said Thursday.
Mark M. Macauda, research associate in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health, said the key to preventing Lyme disease –- a disease that has recently come to the forefront after contracted it, according to staff -– is to eliminate or reduce exposure to areas where deer ticks could bite you.
“Really the only way to get Lyme disease is to be bitten by a deer tick. It cannot be passed person-to-person,” Macauda said. “If you're talking about preventing Lyme disease, what you need to do is prevent being bitten by a deer tick.”
Macauda, who holds a PhD in medical anthropology, isn’t a medical doctor but has done most of his research in the area of Lyme disease prevention.
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The tick-borne disease is treatable with antibiotics if found early, but can lead to more serious health problems if gone undected.
Macauda said the first signs or symptoms of Lyme disease can be very nonspecific, very flu-like, and includes fever, aches and pains, and fatigue.
“A lot of other diseases have very similar types of symptoms,” he said. “Later on, if it’s not treated, you can run into larger problems like arthritis or heart problems or cognitive problems.”
Macauda advises people to use bug repellent, particularly ones with DEET, when you’re going to be outside, wear long pants and socks and check your body for ticks when you get back inside. Your pets should also be checked for ticks.
He also suggests controlling your environment in terms of your yard.
There are several ways one can create a tick-safe zone through landscaping such as clearing tall grasses and brush from around the home to removing old furniture and mattresses from the yard.
While preventative measures should be taken year-round, it's especially important to remember the measures during the warmer seasons.