'Tick or treat' State House rally offers Lyme disease education

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Lyme Newport Support will sponsor a "Tick-or-Treat" Lyme Disease Educational Rally today from 2 to 5 p.m. in front of the Rhode Island State House. The rally will be held in the courtyard area on the Smith Street side of the building.

The event will feature costumed volunteers who will answer questions about "all things Lyme" and pass out "Treat Bags" with information about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Each Halloween character will hold a sign with a fact or important message about the disease. There will be a giant tick with the message, "Little Tick...Big Problem." A deer costume will give the message that "Ticks don't make me sick, but they can make you sick." Scarecrows, ghosts, ghouls and other frightening characters will express that Lyme is a very "scary" disease. Children and adults are encouraged to wear costumes and interact with the other Tick-or-Treat characters.

"This is a fun event to educate children and adults about the seriousness of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses," said Jane Barrows, who runs the Lyme disease support group that is sponsoring the event. "Halloween is a perfect opportunity to get these important messages out to the community."

As part of its commitment to fighting Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, the Rhode Island Department of Health will offer participants its new Guide to Living Tick Free in Rhode Island, Rhode Island Tick Detective Workbook for Kids, and other "Tick Free Rhode Island" educational materials.

Even though it is late in the season, it is still important for Rhode Islanders to be aware that ticks may still be found in vegetation like the tips of grasses, weeds and low shrubs. University of Rhode Island's Tick Encounter Center recently warned, "Autumn is really all about the explosion in activity by the adult stage blacklegged [deer] ticks. Many are surprised to learn that adult blacklegged ticks season does not end with the first frost or freeze. October and November are when these ticks come out in full force."

Rhode Islanders should continue to use flea and tick preventatives on pets year-round. People should tuck-in their shirts, walk in the center of trails, treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin, and use insect repellents that contain at least 20 percent DEET.

Every year, there are over 900 cases of Lyme disease reported to RIDOH and many more cases of tick-borne diseases are not detected. "In addition to prevention and early detection, we also want people to know that if they need treatment, Rhode Island laws mandate insurance coverage for certain treatment options," Barrows said. "The laws also protect patients and their physicians, allowing them to decide on individualized treatment options. Rhode Island was the first state in the country to enact this legislation 16 years ago. The challenge is that these laws are not widely known," Barrows said.The event is free and no advance reservations are required. For more information, contact Jane Barrows at lymenewport@gmail.comor Mary DiBara at marydibara@gmail.com.

For more information about tick-borne diseases and prevention tips, visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website at www.health.ri.gov/ticks or URI's Tick Encounter Center at www.tickencounter.org.

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