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Winter Lyme disease warning issued in Placer County

Ticks with disease found at several popular hiking locations near Auburn
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Now being tested for Lyme disease, ticks from the Auburn area are showing that bites from the infectious bug aren’t just a spring and summer hazard on the trails. Five areas with tick populations have turned up specimens infected with Lyme disease, according to the Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District. The five areas are: - Driver’s Flat, located off Foresthill Road about eight miles from Auburn. - Placer Nature Center, in Christian Valley. The center is a popular destination for school groups to learn about the flora and fauna of the area. - Stevens Trail, in the North Fork American River canyon, near Colfax. The trail is also a dangerous place for poison oak. - Hidden Falls Regional Park. Opened six years ago, the park, located between Lincoln and Auburn, is becoming one of the most popular outdoor destinations in the county. - Auburn Overlook Trail. Accessible off Pacific Avenue in Auburn, the trail provides an accessible entry into the American River Canyon along a trail shared by runners, walkers and equestrians. The district announced that eight tick samples in Placer County tested positive for the Lyme disease organism since mid-January. The district recently obtained equipment that allows it to test ticks for the presence of the disease, which is spread through a bite to humans. Joel Buettner, district general manager, said that even though people associate ticks and Lyme disease with the summer months, there is a risk during this time of year. Milder temperatures have heightened the potential for humans to contract the disease, Buettner said. “We are concerned that with the milder winter we have been experiencing, a lot of folks will be taking the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities, such as hiking in tick habitat, and potentially putting themselves at risk for tick-borne disease,” Buettner said. Meadow Vista’s Chris Ryland, who contracted Lyme disease 14 years ago, said that last year’s wet spring fostered conditions that increase risks and this year’s mild winter will make things even riskier in the outdoors. Oak leaves and wet weather foster the growth of tick populations, Ryland said. “We live in an ideal area for it and it’s going to be another bad year,” she said. “The ground is staying moist and the warm temperatures are perfect for it.” Awareness is the key to staying disease-free, Ryland said. “This is part of where we live,” she said. “People shouldn’t worry. They should be aware and be educated.” Ryland suggests a visit to www.lymedisease.org for an overview and good advice. Buettner said the local findings support a tick advisory issued by the state Department of Public Health in January. “These results certainly support the warning from the state health officer,” Buettner said. Tick tips The Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District suggests these tick-borne prevention strategies: - Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Tuck pant legs into boots or socks and tuck shirts into pants - Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily - Apply a repellent, such as DEET, that is registered for use against ticks. - Stay in the middle of the trail to avoid brush and grassy areas that ticks may be habitating - Inspect yourself and companions frequently for ticks while in tick habitat. Once out, check for ticks up to three days after leaving