Ticks have emerged for the season, raising the risk of Lyme disease throughout the state, Maine public health officials said Wednesday.
Maine recorded an all-time high of about 1,100 cases of the tick-borne disease in 2012, and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention expects the number of cases to rise this year as the weather warms up. Most Lyme infections occur during the summer months, when immature ticks that are more likely to transmit disease are most active.
A bacterial disease spread by the bite of infected deer ticks, Lyme has risen in Maine in recent years and now appears in all 16 counties. The disease is most common among school-aged children, middle-aged adults and those over the age of 65, Maine CDC said in a health alert issued Wednesday.
Last year, 44 percent of Maine’s Lyme cases occurred in York and Cumberland counties. Areas south of Bangor have the highest rate of infected ticks in the state, according to the alert.
The most common early symptom of Lyme disease, which may not occur in all cases, is an expanding “bull’s eye” red rash that appears three to 30 days after a tick bite. Some patients also may experience fever and joint and muscle pains.
Maine CDC recommends that after a tick bite, individuals remove the tick properly — ideally using tweezers or a tick spoon — identify the tick and how long it was attached, clean the area around the bite, and watch for symptoms for 30 days.
In most cases, for a tick to transmit disease it must have been attached for at least 24 hours, according to health officials.
Maine CDC also warned of other diseases carried by ticks that have become less rare in Maine, including anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Maine recorded 52 cases of anaplasmosis and 10 cases of babesiosis last year. No cases of those diseases have yet been reported in 2013, according to the alert.
For information on tick-borne diseases including Lyme, visit maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/index.shtml.