Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus: What You Need to Know

Spending time outdoors increases the risk of exposure to mosquitoes and ticks that may transmit illnesses such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. More than 2,000 people in the United States contract West Nile virus each year, while upwards of 25,000 contract Lyme disease. 

Symptoms and Treatment

West Nile virus: Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, rash and swollen lymph glands. In rare cases, serious neurologic illnesses may develop. Symptoms can last for a few days or several weeks. There is no specific antiviral treatment or vaccine available. Most people with West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months. 

Lyme disease: Symptoms vary depending on the stage of infection and may include fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis. Seek medical attention if you observe any of these symptoms have (1) had a tick bite or (2) been in an area known for Lyme disease. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Those treated in the early stages of the disease usually recover rapidly and completely.

Prevention 

Protect your staff and clients by taking steps to eliminate areas where mosquitoes and ticks thrive: 

  • Remove debris from your property, particularly items that collect standing water (tires, buckets, etc.); 
  • Regularly drain standing water from items such as gutters, pool covers, etc. 
  • Fill in low-lying areas that collect standing water.
  • Repair holes in window screens and keep doors closed 
  • Mow lawns regularly, cut overgrown brush, and remove leaf litter to reduce tick populations
  • Make sure pools are properly maintained and chlorinated. 

Note:  The New York City Health Code requires property owners to eliminate standing water on their property.

Educate staff and clients about taking proper precautions to reduce exposure: 

  • Use repellents containing 20-50% DEET on exposed skin and clothing. (Note: adults should spray repellents on their hands and then transfer the repellant to children.) 
  • Consider treating clothing with the stronger repellent Permethrin.  Do not use Permethrin on your skin 
  • Set up a tent with mosquito nets for use during breaks 
  • Wear light colored clothing so it is easier to identify and remove ticks.
  • Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to prevent mosquito bites and to keep ticks from attaching to skin.
  • Tie hair up or wear a hat when entering a tick habitat.
  • Wear gloves while gardening or doing yard work.  

The New York City Health Department website offers extensive information about West Nile virus and Lyme disease.