Data released on the Maine Tracking Network Thursday by Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reveals that adults over the age of 65 years had the highest rates of Lyme disease in the state last year.

Image/ National Atlas of the United States
Image/ National Atlas of the United States

While the number of reported cases of the disease increased for all ages in 2016, adults over the age of 65 experienced the sharpest increase, topping 400 reported cases, or 162 cases per 100,000 people in this age group alone.

“In light of this data, we are calling on adults over the age of 65 to take the necessary precautions to prevent tick bites,” said State Epidemiologist, Dr. Siiri Bennett. “It is concerning to see such a spike within this age group and it is the first time we are seeing this group surpass children between the ages of 5 and 14 years. This is why we are stressing the need to be aware, take extra preventative measures, and understand the risks.”

To help residents avoid tick bites and promote prevention techniques, Maine CDC launched the Tick-Free ME challenge. The challenge, which is open to all adults over the age of 45 years, provides participants with prevention tips, and encourages participants to track how often during the month of July they wear protective clothing while outside, apply repellant, conduct daily tick checks, and perform home yard maintenance to reduce tick habitats.

“More than half of Lyme disease cases are acquired during the months of June, July, and August – so this challenge is a great opportunity to establish new habits or improve on tick prevention actions, and ultimately reduce the number of our residents who get Lyme and other tickborne diseases,” said Dr. Bennett.