The Fairfax County health department is reminding residents to be vigilant to ticks as part of Lyme Disease Awareness month.
This year's tick population may be unusually high because of the mild winter and warm spring—ticks are active earlier and people are spending more outside, the NBC Nightly News reported.
In addition, a good acorn crop two years ago and a poor crop last year also impacted the white-footed mouse population in some areas of the country, and the mice are a prime food source for ticks, MSNBC reported.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors named May as the awareness month in a recent county commission meeting.
The health department reminds residents that Lyme disease is spread through the bit of an infected backlegged tick, or deer tick.
How to protect yourself, from the health department:
- Avoid direct contact with ticks in wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
- Repellents with DEET can be applied to exposed skin to help repel ticks. Follow the label instructions.
- Wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Tuck your pants into your socks and your shirt into your pants so ticks don't have easy access to your skin.
- Use permethrin on clothing. Permethrin kills ticks and there are formulations to treat your clothes sold at sporting goods stores. Follow the instructions on the label.
- Check for ticks. While outside, take breaks to check yourself for ticks. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Promptly remove any attached ticks. Don’t panic if you find an attached tick.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine animals, coats, and backpacks.
For more information on how to avoid contracting ticks and to learn about the symptoms of Lyme disease, visit Fairfax County's website.