May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and it’s a good idea to learn more about this debilitating disease and how to prevent it.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection; in our area it’s primarily transmitted by black-legged ticks. These tiny arachnids are typically found in wooded and grassy areas. Although people may think of Lyme as an East Coast disease, it is found throughout the United States, and in more than sixty other countries. Researchers recently found Lyme disease-carrying, black-legged ticks in the brush and grasses edging right up to the sand of beaches in northern California, including Marin and Sonoma, a very unexpected find.

The disease affects people of all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that it is most common in children, older adults, and others such as firefighters and park rangers who spend time in outdoor activities and have higher exposure to ticks.

CDC estimates that 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the US every year.  However, because diagnosing Lyme can be difficult, many people who actually have Lyme may be misdiagnosed with other conditions. Many experts believe the true number of cases is much higher.

Prevention is key – ticks cannot jump or fly, but often climb grasses and shrubs waiting to hitch a ride on people or animals walking by. Reduce the ticks in your yard by keeping leaf litter, tall grasses, shrubs, and bushes away from areas you use regularly.  If you’re heading out for a hike, check out ways to avoid this problem pest

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