Tick Identification and Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection often transmitted by a bite from an infected blacklegged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis). Ticks are found in wooded areas and yards. Ticks crawl (not jump) onto a host and bury their mouth into the skin to feed off the host's blood. They may remain undetected by the host for several days before dropping off when they are done feeding.
If you find a tick on you or a family member, you can bring it to the Health Department during normal business hours for identification.
If you find a tick embedded in your body, remove it promptly, carefully, and using the proper technique. Use tweezers to grasp the tick by its mouth parts close to your skin. Pull straight back with a slow, steady force. Try not to squeeze or crush the tick's abdomen or body, because this could separate the tick from its mouth parts, leaving them in your skin. Do not use matches, petroleum jelly, or alcohol in the removal process.
Click here for a photo and more information about the best way to remove a tick.
Place the tick in a zip-lock bag or other small container with grass clippings and promptly bring it to the Health Department. Laboratory staff will examine the tick and send those identified as deer ticks to the Connecticut State Agricultural Experiment Station for Lyme disease testing. Results of the Lyme testing take at least 5 weeks. Please keep in mind that the presence or absence of Lyme disease spirochetes in a tick does not necessarily mean that the disease was or was not transmitted to the person bitten. For the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, contact your primary care physician.
This tick identification service is free for Norwalk residents and carries a nominal fee for people who do not live in Norwalk. Click here for fees.
Protecting Against Lyme Disease
You should take action if you are bitten by a tick, but the best way to protect yourself from Lyme disease is to avoid ticks altogether.
Protect Your Pets
- Avoid wooded or bushy areas and areas with tall grass. If hiking or walking in these areas, try to walk in the center of trails.
- Treat your clothing, boots, and other gear with products that contain permethrin, and use tick repellent that contains 20% to 30% DEET on exposed skin. Always follow product instructions carefully. Ticks often start on the lower legs and crawl up the body to find a feeding spot, so tuck your pants into your socks to keep ticks off your skin.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming inside, and check your scalp and body thoroughly for ticks. Parents should check children thoroughly. Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
Dogs, cats, horses, and other animals can carry ticks, and they can also get Lyme disease, so perform tick checks on animals after returning from the outdoors. Carefully comb through your pet's hair with a fine-toothed comb.
Protect Your Property
- Keep your yard free of leaf litter and debris, and cut grass and tall weeds regularly.
- Several pesticides will kill ticks when applied to yards. Treat yards for ticks from mid-May to early June.
- Ticks will not survive in dry environments, so make sure you do not have puddles of standing water or create an environment where ticks can thrive.
An early symptom of Lyme disease is an expanding red “bullseye” rash, but only 60%-80% of infected people develop a rash. Other warning signs are flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever, headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, and swollen glands.
It is important to be aware of these symptoms and consult a physician when experiencing them. Blood tests are available for Lyme disease detection, however, tests may not always detect the disease in some individuals.
Lyme disease can often be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, if it is not treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Other Tickborne Diseases
Ticks can cause diseases other than Lyme disease, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and babesiosis.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
is transmitted by the dog tick. Symptoms may include headaches, fever, muscle pain, and rash that may spread to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Even though Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is rare—Connecticut only has 2-3 cases per year—it can be fatal if not treated. It is important to note, however, that dog ticks are not carriers of Lyme disease.
is a malaria-like illness that is transmitted by deer ticks. The disease can be fatal in the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, or people without spleens.
For More Information
CDC Information about Lyme Disease
CT Department of Public Health Lyme Disease Page
Lyme Connection (Ridgefield Lyme Disease Task Force)
CDC Information about Other Tickborne Diseases
Connecticut State Agricultural Experiment Station Tick Fact Sheet