The Health Department reminds all New Yorkers to protect themselves and their families from tick-borne diseases as summer approaches and people begin to travel and engage in outdoor activities.
The most common tick-borne disease diagnosed among New Yorkers is Lyme disease, followed by anaplasmosis and babesiosis. In 2021, 826 New Yorkers were diagnosed with Lyme disease, 125 with anaplasmosis, and 102 with babesiosis, compared to 2018 which saw 712 Lyme disease diagnoses, 106 anaplasmosis, and 85 babesiosis diagnoses. Other tick-borne diseases, like ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Borrelia miyamotoi disease, and Powassan virus encephalitis, are rare but still occur.
In addition to human disease surveillance, the City also monitors and tests tick populations in several locations across the five boroughs.
“Summer is here and while New Yorkers enjoy the outdoors, I encourage everyone to take some basic steps to prevent tick-borne diseases as the weather heats up,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Using tick repellent on yourself and pets, wearing long pants if walking or hiking, avoiding tall grass and checking for ticks after spending time outdoors are all ways to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy this summer.”
“We want all New Yorkers to take advantage of the summer weather this year and get outside, but it’s important to remember some basic precautions while in areas where ticks may be present,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “You can protect your family and pets from ticks by using tick repellent, keeping grass cut short, wearing long sleeves and pants when possible and conducting tick checks after being in wooded, bushy or tall grass areas. Simple tips like these will help us all have a safe and healthy summer.”
Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases
Most New Yorkers diagnosed with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, including anaplasmosisbabesiosis, and ehrlichiosis are residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn who are infected while traveling to surrounding areas, including Long Island and upstate New York, and other areas where the black-legged (deer) and lone star ticks are well established.
However, these ticks are also present throughout Staten Island and the northern Bronx.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include a skin rash that expands over several days, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, the infection may spread to the joints, heart or nervous system.
Tick surveillance by the Health Department continues to find the American dog tick in all boroughs. The black-legged tick, which can spread Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, is widely established in Staten Island and areas of the Bronx, including Pelham Bay Park and Hunter Island, but not in other areas of NYC. The Asian long-horned and lone star ticks are also well established in Staten Island and parts of the Bronx, and the Gulf Coast tick in Staten Island.
As the density of Asian long-horned ticks has grown, the density of black-legged ticks has declined. The Asian long-horned ticks have not been shown to transmit disease to people in the US.
Lone star ticks can spread ehrlichiosis and have also been associated with the emergence of a food allergy to red meat known as alpha-gal syndrome. Some Gulf Coast ticks found in Staten Island tested positive for R. parkeri, which causes Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, but no human infections have been reported.
To learn more about ticks in New York City and the diseases they spread, visit here.
Recommendations to prevent tick bites and tick-borne illnesses
Reduce your risk at home – if ticks are present, create a tick-safe zone.
- Know where ticks live – often shady, moist areas at ground level, especially in or at the edges of woods and around old stone walls.
- Keep grass short and don’t let piles of brush or leaves build up.
- Trim shrubs and tree branches around your yard to let in more sunlight.
- Create a barrier to define a tick-safe zone around your yard.
- Keep playground equipment and outdoor furniture in a sunny location, away from yard edges and trees.
- Don’t leave out food that attracts deer and other wildlife.
Repel, don’t attract, ticks.
- Use an EPA registered insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 with a product label indicating it is effective against ticks (not mosquitos only).
- Permethrin products can be used on clothing or shoes (but not the skin) to repel and kill ticks.
- Stay in the center of cleared paths and hiking trails when walking in heavily wooded areas.
- Wear light-colored clothing to see ticks easier.
- Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to prevent ticks from attaching to your skin.
After being outdoors in wooded, brushy or tall grass areas.
- Check for ticks on your body and clothing and remove any ticks you find on yourself, your child or your pet.
- Young ticks are very small (about the size of a poppy seed), so seek help to inspect areas not easily reachable. Be sure to look carefully in areas of the body where hair is present since it may make it difficult to see the ticks. Adult ticks are about the size of an apple seed.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors, preferably within two hours.
- Use hot water when washing clothing to kill ticks. If hot water cannot be used, tumble dry wet or damp clothes on low heat for 70 minutes or high heat for 40 minutes.
- Place dry clothing in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. Wet or damp clothing might need more time in the dryer.
- If you get a rash or a fever, let the doctor know if you may have been exposed to ticks, even if you don’t remember having a tick bite.
- Ask your veterinarian which flea and tick repellents are best to use on your pet. Repellents help protect your pets from tick-borne diseases, and also protect pet owners, as ticks can travel into the home on dogs, cats, and other pets.
- Dogs, and less often cats, can also get sick from ticks. If you think your dog may have been bitten by a tick and you see changes in your dog’s behavior or appetite, speak with your veterinarian.
- Visit the Department’s page on Ticks
- NYC Tick ID and Removal Wallet Card (also in Spanish, Russian, Italian)
- Ticks taking over? Take back your yard (also in Spanish)
- All About Ticks: A Workbook for Kids and Their Parents (also in Spanish)