Human Services

Lyme Disease


Warm weather makes people (and ticks!) more active. Infected ticks transmit bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection reported in Virginia. In 2010 over 1,200 Lyme disease cases were reported across the state. 

Lyme disease is preventable. Learn how you can protect yourself and your family.


  • Lyme disease was first identified in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut.
  • The black-legged tick is the carrier of Lyme disease in the eastern United States.
  • The bacteria that causes illness is called Borellia burgdorferi.
  • Lyme disease cases have been reported in Virginia since 1982; the number of cases in Virginia has doubled since 1999.
  • Lyme disease transmission to humans usually occurs during the late spring and early summer (May, June, July). This is the time of the year when young (nymph stage) ticks are active and feeding.
  • Ticks feed slowly and will not transmit disease until they have been attached for 36 hours

Common Signs and Symptoms                                                        

  • Fever, headache
  • Fatigue; extreme tiredness                                                        
  • A bull’s-eye rash
  • Painful and swollen joints
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen glands                                                                

   Bull's eye rash

Not everyone may experience the same symptoms. If you get sick and think you have been exposed to ticks, please contact your doctor. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause long-term nervous system problems or arthritis. People of any age can get Lyme disease. Dogs, cats, and horses are also at risk.



Avoid/Reduce Tick Habitats

  • Avoid tick-infested areas, such as tall grasses and wooded areas. Stay on trails and avoid overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter.
  • In yards, keep grass and underbrush thinned. Eliminate wood piles. Consider using landscaping techniques to create a "tick-safe" zone

Dress Appropriately

  • Wear light-colored clothing. Light colors will make it easier to spot ticks. 
  • Tuck pant legs into socks and boots, tuck shirts into pants, and wear long-sleeved shirts buttoned at the wrist

Use Insect Repellants

  • Use insect repellant when heading outdoors. 
  • Insect repellant with DEET (up to 50% for adults, less than 30% for children) is effective. Repellants with DEET can be used on clothing and exposed skin.
  • Permethrin kills ticks on contact. Apply only to clothing and shoes, not skin.
  • Use the EPA's registered insect repellant list to find a repellant right for you. 
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tick control for your pets.

Do a Tick Check

  • Do a tick check whenever you, family members, or your pets return from being outside, even in your own yard. 
    • Check under arms, in and around ears, inside the belly button, behind knees, around the waist and in hair. 
    • Bathe or shower within 2 hours to wash off ticks and to find ticks that may be crawling on your body.
    • Ticks can travel on clothing, pets, and other items such as backpacks. 
    • You can put clothes in the dryer for 1 hour to kill remaining ticks. 
  • Remove ticks promptly. Use fine-tipped tweezers to firmly grasp the tick close to your skin. Pull upward with steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick. Shield your fingers when removing the tick. Clean the skin with soap and warm water or alcohol. 
  • Do not use petroleum jelly, nail polish, a hot match, or other products to remove a tick. 


 The best way to protect yourself from Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme Disease                            
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tick-borne Diseases of the U.S.
Fairfax County Disease Carrying Insects Program 
National Capital Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Association   
Virginia Department of Health: Vector-Borne Disease Control  
Brochures and other educational materials
Lyme Disease: A Public Information Guide (brochure)
Preventing Tick-Borne Diseases in Virginia (brochure)       
Virginia Department of Health: Lyme Disease (fact sheet)                              
Under Our Skin (movie)                                                                                                   

Cases of Lyme Disease in Arlington, NoVa, and Virginia 

Virginia Cooperative Extension
Fairlington Community Center
3308 S. Stafford Street
Arlington, VA 22206
Hours: M-F 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(Staff can identify ticks; call for more info)

Last Modified: August 04, 2011
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201 Tel: 703-228-3000 TTY: 703-228-4611