NIOSH Updates Topics Page on Lyme Disease

THIS month, NIOSH updated its online topics page on Lyme disease, a resource which includes recommendations for employers and workers.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States. In 2005, more than 23,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease is passed to humans by the bite of black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks in the eastern United States) and western black-legged ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The Lyme disease bacterium normally lives in mice, squirrels, and other small mammals.

Outdoor workers are at risk of Lyme disease if they work at sites with infected ticks. U.S. workers in the northeastern and north-central States are at highest risk of exposure to infected ticks. Ticks may also transmit other tick-borne diseases to workers in these and other regions of the country. Work sites with woods, bushes, high grass or leaf litter are likely to have more ticks. Outdoor workers should be extra careful to protect themselves in the late spring and summer when young ticks are most active.

NIOSH recommends that employers protect their workers from Lyme disease by taking steps that include:

  • Provide training for workers.
  • Recommend that workers wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and hat when possible.
  • Provide workers with insecticides (such as permethrin) to provide greater protection. Permethrin kills ticks and can be used on clothing (but not skin).
  • When possible, have workers avoid working at sites with woods, bushes, tall grass, and leaf litter.

The Lyme disease topics page can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/lyme.

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