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Ticks, Lyme disease and COVID-19

An infectious disease specialist with UMPC Susquehanna offers tips on this year's tick season and how it relates to COVID-19.

A lot of us are spending more time outdoors these days, whether it's taking the dog for a walk, camping, or hiking with our friends and family.

These outdoor treks may mean an encounter with ticks and the possibility of getting Lyme disease.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey talked with an area expert in central Pennsylvania to find out why it's especially concerning during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Rutul Dalal is an infectious disease specialist at UMPC Susquehanna. 

"When you're walking out, and tall, bushy areas, these guys (ticks) are waiting for you with their hind legs. They attach themselves to the grass with their front legs. Then, they're ready to grasp on to any person who is walking around," Dr. Dalal said.

As an infectious disease specialist in north-central Pennsylvania, Dr. Dalal warns that if a tick stays on you for more than a day, it could lead to infections like Lyme disease. Where we live, it makes it even more of a threat.

With the possibility of getting Lyme disease is a concern every spring and summer, the question is this year with COVID-19: is Lyme disease an even bigger threat?

Dr. Dalal is quick to point out that it's too early to prove scientifically whether Lyme disease could actually increase your chances of getting COVID-19.

While the jury is still out on any relationship between Lyme disease and COVID-19, Dr. Dalal offered several tips below to protect ourselves and our pets.

Protecting yourself from ticks:

  • Most importantly, be mindful of where you're walking or hiking.
  • Do a tick check when you get inside your house. Some studies have shown that if you shower within two hours of coming in from the outdoors, you will potentially reduce the chances of a tick sticking on to you and transmitting Lyme disease.
  • Take a shower
  • Wear light-colored long pants
  • Use insect repellent with DEET before you go walking or hiking
  • Put clothes in a dryer at the high setting to kill any ticks

Finally, there's even something you can do in your yard to prevent infections from ticks. Dr. Dalal suggests that if you have a big lawn, keep your grass trimmed and try putting in some wood chips between your lawn and between the house, at least up to three feet. Dr. Dalal says that the woodchip barrier will prevent ticks from going from your lawn into your house. 

More resources:

Click here to learn how to remove a tick.

You can head here to read a new article posted on the CDC's website about what to expect human-biting ticks and tickborne illnesses.

To view "Regions Where Ticks Live," click this link to see the different species and the areas around the world they call home.

For a list of diseases transmitted by ticks, head to this section of the CDC's website.