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Social distancing outdoors can come with its own set of risks—researchers say watch out for ticks.

  People have taken extra precautions to avoid making themselves vulnerable to COVID-19. They wear masks and gloves when in public places.
Beaches and parks have become popular places to social distance to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But Sara Tyghter says she has noticed that people are not as careful as they should be when enjoying the outdoors. “A lot of people are really hyper-focused on social distancing, and doing the correct things to fight coronavirus, and rightfully so, but I am very much concerned that they are not really doing the necessary steps to prevent being bitten by a tick.” Tyghter works for the  Global Lyme Alliance in Stamford. The group does research, education and outreach to help prevent tick-borne diseases. “Connecticut does have an increase in the number of ticks, and we’ve been seeing that year to year.” Connecticut and Long Island are hotspots for tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease. Dr. Scott Campbell heads Suffolk County's  Arthropod-borne Disease Laboratory in Yaphank. “When it comes to Suffolk County, approximately 600 cases are identified. CDC did a study and found that most cases are not identified, or reported, so we know that this number is underreported.” That makes identifying the symptoms of Lyme disease even more important. “Typically, it’s a summertime flu: malaise, achiness, muscle achiness, fever, and then there are 50 to 60% of people that will get a rash from the bite site.” It takes 24 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease. Most recover quickly, but 20% of people can be left with long-term disabilities like stiff joints, impaired memory and facial nerve palsy. While all of that could sound scary, Tyghter says preventing Lyme disease isn’t complicated. “We definitely want people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, but being ‘tick aware’ is very important.” Being “tick aware” means covering your neck, wearing long sleeves, applying tick repellent, tucking pant legs into long socks and throwing dirty clothes in the dryer after a hike. That’ll remove and kill ticks – they hate dry heat. Chris Fuentes, who owns  Ranger Ready Repellents in Norwalk, is predicting a high number of Lyme disease cases this season. “This year we are pretty fearful that there will be a big crop of ticks. We’ve seen this happen in the past, and it seems the indicators are now, because of the weather, heavy rain, this spring is going to produce a fair number of ticks, especially in the beach areas.” Read the entire post on WSHU.org
Be Tick AWARE tick bite prevention video Click here to access GLA's Be Tick AWARE materials