The Delaware Department of Health is warning residents that with spring’s arrival and the warmer weather comes ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and increased chances of vector-borne diseases. Whether staying home or traveling in the coming months, DPH wants to remind Delawareans of the risk of these diseases, which include Lyme disease, Zika, and West Nile Virus, and to share prevention tips.

With its abdomen engorged with a host blood meal, this image depicts a lateral, or side view of a female blacklegged, or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis/CDC

“While we want everyone to get outside and enjoy the weather, taking advantage of additional opportunities for family time and exercise, we also hope each person takes the proper precautions to protect themselves and others, especially children, as well as pets from the diseases that can potentially come with insect bites,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.

According to data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, Delaware reported 545 cases of tick borne diseases and 35 cases of mosquito borne diseases. The CDC listed Lyme disease as the state’s top tick borne disease, accounting for 93 percent (506) of the cases. DPH recently finalized its 2017 data and is reporting 608 cases of Lyme disease last year, an increase of more than 100 cases since 2016. The CDC believes that the actual number of Lyme disease cases nationwide is 10 times higher than what is reported to doctors or state and county health departments.

Since May is also Lyme Disease Awareness Month, DPH has launched a campaign titled, “BLAST Lyme disease,” which was adapted with permission from the Ridgefield, Connecticut, BLAST Program. The “BLAST” acronym is a simple way to remember five simple steps you can take to protect yourself, family and pets from Lyme disease:

  • Bathe or shower within two hours of coming indoors.
  • Look for ticks on your body and remove them.
  • Apply repellent to your body and clothes.
  • Spray your yard.
  • Treat your pet.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States with approximately 30,000 new cases reported each year. It is frequently characterized by an expanding red rash, commonly referred to as a “bull’s eye rash.” Rashes can occur anywhere on the body and vary in size and shape. The rash can be warm to the touch, but usually not painful or itchy. Not all patients will develop the characteristic rash. Other symptoms include fever and or chills, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and headaches. Untreated infections can lead to symptoms including severe joint pain and swelling (usually large joints, particularly the knees), loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called “Bell’s palsy”), heart palpitations and dizziness, severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis, and neurological problems (i.e., numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, problems with concentration and short-term memory).