Erie County Health leaders warn about ticks, rabies after warm winter

390650 01: A Close Up Of An Adult Female, An Adult Male, Nymph And Larva Tick Is Shown June 15, 2001. Ticks Cause An Acute Inflammatory Disease Characterized By Skin Changes, Joint Inflammation, And Flu-Like Symptoms Called Lyme Disease. (Photo By Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – After another mild Western New York winter, the number of ticks in Erie County may be increased compared to previous years. More ticks could lead to more people exposed to tick borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, which is widespread in Erie County.

This year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) experts and other health researchers are warning of another disease carried by ticks, Powossan virus. While Powassan is still very rare, it is too early to predict if Powassan is truly becoming more prevalent.

Erie County Health Commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein said Lyme disease is more of a concern. She said, “In Western New York, we do have Lyme disease, and we do have Lyme disease that is locally transmitted.”

Warm weather plays a role in that this year. She said, “We’re anticipating the population that can transmit these viruses that are born from insects or ticks from say wild animals by rabies by raccoons will be more prevalent, because we will have more wildlife because they’ve had more time to start reproducing.”
The ticks live on deer mice and can be easily spread to humans and animals. Dr. Burstein recommends wearing long sleeves and doing frequent tick checks.

She said, “People have to use common sense, and when they come in from an area where they’ve been exposed, do a tick check!”

She’s also warning about the risk for rabies. She said, “Immunizations are really the bread and butter of public health and prevention.” Dr. Burstein says the concern for rabies this year also comes from our warmer winter. “Rabies immunizations can be expensive, but they can also be life saving. Not just for your pets that you love, but also for your family.”
Rabies are usually found in wild animals, but humans can come into contact with it through their own pets. The county is hosting two free rabies clinics, immunizing dogs, cats or ferrets.

Powossan virus causes encephalitis-or swelling of the brain-and kills about 10% of people who become ill while other victims may sustain permanent neurological damage. According to the New York State Department of Health, since the early 1990’s, the New York State Western Region (17 Western Counties) has not reported any Powassan virus cases. However, while rare, Powassan exists in areas where Western New Yorkers may travel for business or recreation.

“Should you discover a tick on your skin, carefully remove the entire tick and observe for signs and symptoms of disease,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “The sooner the tick is removed, the less likely that an infectious disease is transmitted. Transfer of an infectious agent depends on the tick’s feeding interval or period of attachment and whether the tick was removed properly. Generally, the tick must be attached to an individual for 36 to 48 hours or more before it can spread bacteria. Ultimately, a person with known (or suspected) history of tick bite needs to consult with a healthcare provider for assessment of symptoms, which may or may not lead to a diagnosis of a tick-borne disease. Not all ticks bites lead to Lyme disease or Powassan virus.”
Ticks, especially in the nymph stage, are extremely small so a thorough skin and clothing inspection is necessary after spending time outdoors where ticks are present or suspected. In tick infested areas, try to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. If you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, take steps to protect yourself.
Burstein added: “After spending time outdoors in an area likely to have ticks, such as brushy, woody or grassy places, it is very important that you check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks.”
What Can I Do To Reduce Ticks In My Yard?
· Keep lawns mowed and edges trimmed
· Clear brush, leaf litter and tall grass around the house, and at the edges of gardens and stone walls
· Stack woodpiles neatly away from the house and preferably off the ground
· In the fall, clear your yard of all leaf and garden litter, where ticks can live in the winter

You can find the free rabies clinics through Erie County on these days and locations:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Town of Tonawanda Highway Garage
450 Woodward Ave (off Military Rd. near Sheridan Dr.)
Tonawanda, NY 14217

Wednesday, May 31, 2017
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Broadway Market
999 Broadway
Buffalo, NY 14212
(Parking Ramp in the back)

Wednesday, September, 13, 2017
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
ECC South Campus Building #7
4041 Southwestern Blvd.
Orchard Park, NY 14127

Wednesday, September, 20, 2017
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
ECC North Campus, Noonan Center Maintenance Garage
6205 Main St.
Williamsville, NY 14221

Wednesday, September, 27, 2017
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
West Seneca Highway Garage
39 South Ave. (off Union Rd. near Route 400)
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