DARIEN, Conn. -- With more and more ticks with Lyme disease being discovered across Connecticut this year, and warnings from the state that a higher abundance of infected ticks can be expected this season, the Darien Health Department is maintaining constance surveillance and reminding residents to be vigilant.
The Health Department accepts ticks and submits them to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station for testing. Only those ticks removed from humans will be tested for Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. The lab does not test dog ticks or other ticks found on pets.
In 2016, the CAES tested 80 ticks submitted by the Darien Health Department. Of those, 17, or 27 percent, were found to be positive. So far in 2017, a total of 20 ticks have been tested and half of those have been found to be positive. This is consistent with findings across the state for this year.
In order for a tick carrying Lyme disease to infect a person, it must be attached to a human for at least 24 hours and be fully engorged with human blood. The lab will only test ticks that have been engorged. If the tick was not engorged, Lyme disease transmission did not occur and the tick will not be tested. Testing done through CAES is free, with the results available and provided through email within a few days.
According to the Darien Health Department, a recent study at Yale found that the risk of contracting Lyme disease is reduced by as much as 58 percent if a person showers or bathes within two hours of being outside in tick-infested areas. People who check themselves for ticks reduce the likelihood of contracting Lyme disease.
Repellants, especially ones that carry at least 30 percent DEET, have been shown to be effective for approximately three hours after application.
You can also take steps such as reducing brush areas at the perimeter of yards, perhaps by installing a gravel walkway where the lawn meets the woods. Rodents, especially mice, are major carriers of ticks, so you should minimize potential harborage areas such as wood and brush piles. Birds can also carry ticks, so keep bird feeders away from the house. Bird feeders also attract rodents that carry ticks.
Yard treatments with pesticides or wearing various types of protective clothing also help, though it can be difficult to wear long sleeves when hiking or working in the garden during the summer. Vigilance is the best defense, the Health Department says.
Free tick removal kits are available at the Health Department offices in Darien Town Hall.
Click here for more information on ticks from the Darien Health Department.