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Sixteen confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in St. Lawrence County already this year


MASSENA - They may be smaller than a fingernail, but ticks are one of nature’s “silent killers” and there are already 16 confirmed human cases of Lyme Disease in St. Lawrence County this year, according to county Public Health officials.

“We have noticed the increase (in ticks) and it has been a bad year already. It is very important for people to educate themselves about Lyme Disease,” Massena Humane Society Director Heidi Bradish said. “Vet clinics in the area are definitely noticing an increase so far.”

“I would say that three years ago we really started to see an increase. Every year they start to come earlier in the spring and last later in the fall,” St. Lawrence Valley Vet Clinic Dr. Cynthia Swingle, Massena, said.

“I don’t have an exact figure, but we have had cases of Lyme Disease this year. We definitely have. We’re considered a high risk for Lyme Disease here in the northeast.”

St. Lawrence County Public Health Department’s Director of Preventative Services Laurie Maki said the county had 264 people evaluated for the illness last year and 139 ended up being confirmed cases.

Deer ticks are the main perpetrator for causing Lyme Disease and while they can transmit it to dogs and humans, cats are in the clear.

“So far we haven’t had a huge problem with the ticks on dogs but we are having a lot of them on cats. ... Most of the cats that we get are strays,” Potsdam Humane Society Director Alicia M. Maynard said.

“For cats and dogs, it is very important to talk with your vets about tick preventative methods. The vets usually have the best products. We’ve also been pushing it here to get your dog vaccinated for Lyme Disease. Lyme is kind of a silent killer sometimes.”

Dr. Swingle explained that ticks are finding more and more animals to latch themselves onto, thus creating a chain effect where they can find more host bodies in the future.

“It’s just getting to be that way and people sometimes don’t realize that the ground feeding birds carry ticks and chipmunks do to. (Ticks) can hang on and survive and host on these animals for quite a while. We’ve had little Yorkshire Terriers come in with 20 ticks and it’s just from rolling around in the yard,” she said.

“For dogs, there is a Lyme vaccine. We do recommend the monthly topicals and those kinds of products. There are also tick and flea collars. We recommend things like that for all your pets. Also, it is important to check them over carefully and take (the ticks) right off.”

Town and Country Vet Clinic Dr. Alayna Rust, Potsdam, said that it is still too early in the year to notice any significant increase with ticks, but that doesn’t mean it is any less of an issue.

“I usually get one or two cases of Lyme Disease per week. It is still too early to see an increase though. We have been having a lot of people calling in though, complaining about ticks on their animals,” Dr. Rust said.

“There are plenty of flea and tick preventatives. There is a monthly treatment and you can use Advantix and things like that. Products like that are usually pretty effective. Very close monitoring of your pets every day is important. Some ticks are very small and if you are in a high risk area, it is important to have the vaccination ahead of time.

“Prevention is the best medicine. The disease can be pretty dramatic and treatment itself can be pretty expensive, depending on the size of your dog.”

Ms. Bradish noted that first indications of Lyme Disease with a dog typically include fatigue and lameness. If you find a tick on your pet, you can remove it with tweezers, clean the area and make sure to kill the tick.

She said that she has been surprised with the early and often appearance of the microscopic parasites.

“I was surprised that it seemed to present itself so early this year. It varies though from year to year, and it looks like this could be a bad one,” Ms. Bradish said. “(Lyme) is becoming pretty common. The most important thing people can do is be pro-active.”

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