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If you work outdoors, protect yourself against ticks and Lyme disease

Working outdoors in late spring and early summer can put you and your employees at a greater risk of exposure to ticks infected with Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium carried in the gut of certain ticks. When these infected ticks attach to the human body (often in armpits, groin, scalp, or other hairy, hidden body areas), they slowly feed, and within 36-48 hours they may transmit the bacterium.

Signs and symptoms. Although a majority of people with Lyme disease develop a “bulls-eye” rash, 20-40% of persons who have the disease do not have a rash. Other signs and symptoms may be non-specific and similar to flu symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Lymph node swelling
  • Neck stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Migrating joint aches, or muscle aches

Most cases of Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. On the flipside, untreated Lyme disease may result in severe, chronic, and disabling symptoms.

Preventing Lyme disease. The first line of defense is decreasing the probability of tick bites. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Have employees avoid brushy, overgrown, grassy, and woody areas in spring and early summer when young ticks feed.
  • Remove leaves, tall grass, and brush from areas around work areas or residential areas to decrease tick habitats.
  • Apply tick-toxic chemicals to surrounding work or residential areas in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and community standards.
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