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Health Alert: Check for Ticks, Prevent Lyme Disease & Other Tick-Borne Illnesses

(Ithaca, N.Y., July 2, 2024) – Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) is alerting the community to be aware of the dangers of contracting Lyme Disease and other illnesses as a result of bites from ticks. Ticks have been reported to transmit over 7 different illnesses which can affect people of any age. Tick-borne disease symptoms vary by type of infection and can include fever, fatigue, headache, and rash.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (or deer ticks). Because Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, re-infection can occur with any bite from an infected tick. While not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in New York. A vaccine for Lyme disease is not currently available. While Lyme disease continues to be the most prevalent tick-borne disease in New York State (NYS), other tick-borne diseases, including babesiosis and anaplasmosis, are spreading within the State.

A tick’s life cycle lasts two years. During this time, ticks go through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. The nymphs are most active in early spring and are the size of a poppy seed or freckle. They can still transmit disease if they bite, so it is important to do daily full body tick checks, including in body crevices such as armpits, behind the knees, and around genitalia.

Generally, ticks cannot jump or fly onto a person. They wait in plants and cling to animals and humans when they brush by. When spending time outdoors, take special care to prevent tick bites by following the “ABCD method”:

  • AVOID: If you can, avoid areas where ticks may be present. If you cannot avoid, be sure to follow these additional steps carefully.
  • “BUG” SPRAY: Use tick repellant on clothing and skin that contains 20%-30% DEET. Apply as directed and avoid eyes or mouth. Assist children with applying insect repellent. Treat your clothing, tents and other camping gear with permethrin. Be sure to follow instructions from the manufacturer.
  • CHECK FOR TICKS: Perform regular checks for ticks whenever you have been outdoors and do an additional full-body scan at the end of the day. Assist your family members with checking themselves and be sure to check your pets too!
  • DRESS FOR PREVENTION: Wear light colored clothing so that ticks are easy to spot. Tuck shirts into pants and tuck pants into socks.

If removal of attached ticks occurs promptly, the risk of tick-borne infection is minimal. For reducing the risk of tick-borne disease, ticks must be removed before 36 hours have passed, but note that tick-borne diseases other than Lyme disease can be transmitted within just a few hours, so removing ticks promptly is important. Checking frequently and removing as soon as possible is essential for reducing risk of disease.

The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) has created a video on proper tick removal and a printable card with steps on how to remove ticks.

  • Grasp the mouthparts with tweezers as close as possible to the attachment (skin) site. Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids.
  • Pull firmly and steadily upward to remove the tick.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands.
  • See or call a doctor if there are concerns about incomplete tick removal.
  • Do not attempt to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly, lit cigarettes or other home remedies because these may actually increase the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease.
  • Monitor the site of the bite for the next 30 days for the appearance of a rash.
  • If you experience symptoms such as a rash (especially in the area of a prior tick bite), fever, chills, body aches/pains, flu-like symptoms, or fatigue, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Whole Health Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “With the warmer weather, people are more likely to encounter ticks, as they live in our lawns as well as our parks and forests. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are very serious and debilitating illnesses that can be easily prevented by taking proper steps. Be sure to check yourself and your family members (pets too) for ticks after being outdoors.”

Dr. Klepack continued, “The common rule is that if a tick has been attached to you for more than 36 hours, you should consult your healthcare provider about taking a preventative antibiotic for Lyme disease. Antibiotics can reduce your risk of developing tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease. If you develop symptoms or a rash where the bite occurred in the weeks after a tick bite, remember to contact your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.”

TCWH can assist with your questions about ticks and tick-borne disease by calling our Community Health Nurses at: 607-274-6604. Tick information kits can be requested by contacting our Healthy Neighborhoods Program (HNP) by email or phone: 607-274-6702.

Please visit our website at to learn more about ticks, including helpful pictures for tick identification and videos on proper tick removal.

This summer, follow Cornell Communications Department’s Tick Awareness Campaign on Facebook, “TickAlert Tompkins: A Campaign Against Tick-Borne Diseases.” This campaign is being developed in consultation with TCWH and aims to raise awareness among county residents about prevention, detection, and treatment of tick bites.

Tompkins County Whole Health envisions a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at, and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord,