HEALTH

Lyme disease season approaching

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The warmer weather is bringing more people outdoors - and ticks are keeping them company ahead of schedule.

May is “Lyme disease awareness month,” and local health officials are getting up close and personal with the pests - all to help you fight the bite.

Jorge Arias, disease carrying insects program supervisor for Fairfax County Health Dept., says ticks look like a tiny freckle the size of a pinhead with legs.

That's one way to remember how to spot the small, blood-feeding parasites, as tick season gets a head start.

“We have seen ticks earlier this year than we normally see them because it's warmer,” Arias says.

Arias and his team at the Fairfax County Health Department study thousands of local ticks to better understand and track Lyme disease in the area.

Pablo Quinonez, an environmental health technician, says they’ve seen up to 200 ticks on one trap.

Last year, there were 147 cases of Lyme disease in the county. None have been being reported so far.

“It takes a lot to time until the doctors confirm them, then the doctors report them to the health department, then the health department confirms them, but we do have them I'm sure,” Arias says.

The health department launches its annual Fight the Bite campaign Tuesday, sharing the importance of protecting yourself from disease-carrying insects.

Part of the message includes prevention, such as wearing insect repellent, wearing long loose fitting clothes and tucking your pants into your socks.

And keeping alert for symptoms.

“If you have a bulls-eye rash, you're fortunate, because you know you have Lyme disease and you can go get treated for it,:” Arias says. “Another symptom that we look for is Bell's palsy when half of your face becomes paralyzed. Another one is when your energy goes down.”

If you find a tick on you, and remove it, you can bring it to the Fairfax County health department where they'll be able to identify the type of species. This will help your doctor, if treatment is needed.

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