Lyme Disease in Oregon

There are more cases of Lyme disease in Oregon each year. May to October are the worst months for ticks, so now is the time to be prepared and protect yourself and your family. Oregonians love to enjoy their beautiful and easily available outdoors. We hike, camp, bird watch and thoroughly enjoy our natural surroundings. However without proper tick safety measures your outdoor activity may be dangerous.

Here are a few tips:

  • Wear protective clothing
    When walking in grass, tall grass, wooded areas and anywhere deer are known to populate, wear clothing that will keep ticks from getting to bare skin. Wear closed shoes, long-sleeved shirts that fit tightly around the wrist and tuck them into pants. Protect your legs by tucking pants into socks or boots. Ticks show up better on light-coloured clothing.
  • Use an insect repellant
    Insect repellents containing DEET can effectively repel ticks. Repellents can be applied to clothing as well as exposed skin but should not be applied to skin underneath clothing (note: DEET may damage some materials). Always read and follow label directions. Natural insect repellents are also available.
  • Check for ticks after being outdoors
    Check for ticks on clothing and skin after being outdoors. A daily total-body inspection and prompt removal of attached ticks (within 18 to 24 hours) can reduce the risk of infection. Blacklegged ticks are very small, particularly the younger stages, so look carefully. Do not forget to check children and pets as well.
  • Remove the tick carefully
    Carefully remove attached ticks using tweezers. Grasp the tick’s head and mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly until the tick is removed. Do not twist or rotate the tick and try not to squash or crush the tick during removal. More information about the proper removal of a tick >>
  • Save the tick for testing
    After removing ticks, wash the bite site with soap and water or disinfect it with alcohol or household antiseptic. Note the day of the tick bite and try to save the tick in an empty pill vial or doubled zip-lock bag.
  • Notice any symptoms, and follow up with a physician
    Contact a doctor familiar with Lyme disease immediately if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease, especially when you have been in an area where blacklegged ticks are found. Call our office for a good referral. If you have saved the tick, take it with you to the doctor’s office.

Here is a link to a Pacific Northwest Hiker with good safety instructions.

Prevention is the best approach

Lyme disease is a disease that is hard to eradicate; prevention, early detection and treatment is the best approach. It is a serious bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium of the spirochete group. Other spirochetes cause diseases such as syphilis, rat-bite fever and relapsing fever. The primary means of infection is by tick bite although the disease has also been shown to be transmitted by other insects. The nymphal Ixodes tick, the primary culprit in transmission, is so small (about the size of a poppy seed) the victim will rarely notice it and will not feel it bite. People should not be lulled into thinking themselves safe because they did not notice a tick.

We have treated patients at our clinic who were bitten by ticks here in Oregon. The doctor we work with has found a number of ticks from the Columbia Gorge that tested positive for Lyme. So be careful on your hikes.

If you are bitten by a tick try to remove the tick and observe the correct removal method, this is crucial. Proper tick removal . Save the tick in a small medicine vial or a double zip-lock bag. Then call the office and we will put you in contact with a Lyme Literate Doctor who works with an appropriate lab to have the tick tested for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi and other possible co-infections.

There is controversy in the medical community about Lyme disease and the proper testing and treatment for it. Therefore it is important to see a doctor who understands how to test and treat for Lyme disease. Here is a link that will summarize some of the issues.

Additional Information

Below are a few links that will provide you with the information about Lyme Disease that will help you safely enjoy our natural wonders this summer.