The blacklegged ticks that cause Lyme disease are now found in half of all U.S. counties, across 43 states, according to new data from the CDC, reported in the Journal of Medical Entomology in March. That’s a 45 percent increase in the ticks’ geographical distribution since the last survey was done in 1998. Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., affects more than 30,000 people a year and is characterized by a red rash around the bite site and sometimes flu-like symptoms.
Ticks are most active between April and October. Take precautions when you venture into tick-infested areas. Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts, socks, and pants; tuck pants into your socks. Use repellent that contains DEET or picaridin on exposed skin; spray permethrin on clothing. When you get home, check for ticks all over your body, including your scalp and groin area. They can be hard to spot early on; a magnifying glass may help.