"Tick, Tick ... Boom" is composer Jonathan Larson's musical about his short but successful Broadway career (his "Rent" garnered a Best Musical Tony award), but it could be about the explosion in tick-borne illnesses that are affecting people and their pets.
Turns out 337,000 dogs have gotten Lyme disease in the past six years! Cats don't get it as often, which is good, since it's potentially lethal for them. And about 150,000 people had confirmed cases during the same period; another 30,000 or so were suspected.
Lyme is caused by a bacterial infection from the bite of the black-legged or deer tick. The deer tick transmits additional infections (anaplasmosis and babesiosis) that, like Lyme disease, trigger swollen joints, fever, anorexia and internal bleeding in people and dogs.
Other ticks cause trouble, too, so if you're out in tick-infested areas, it's time to tick-proof your life. The clock is ticking.
- People: Treat clothing and boots (never skin) with permethrin or DEET. Use repellant with 10 percent to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin. (It's OK for children older than 2 months; just wash off skin as soon as kids are inside.) Shower within two hours of tick exposure. Do a full body search in front of a mirror to check for hangers-on! Examine gear, wash clothing, then tumble dry for one hour.
- Dogs: Repel ticks using permethrin; you can kill ticks on a dog with acaricides. Inspect and wash pets outdoors. And there's a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs (none for cats or people - yet).