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The low-down on Lyme disease

June 1, 2000
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OSHA has published a bulletin to help protect outdoor workers in construction, landscaping, and forestry — and other employees working in heavily wooded or grassy areas — who face increased risks of exposure to Lyme disease-bearing ticks.

If untreated, Lyme disease can cause chronic arthritis, heart disease, and/or neurologic disorders. If recognized early, the disease can usually be successfully treated with standard antibiotics.

OSHA suggests these preventive steps:

Avoid brushy, overgrown, grassy and woody areas, particularly in spring and early summer when young ticks feed.

  • Remove leaves, tall grass, and brush from work areas.
  • Apply tick-toxic chemicals to surrounding work areas in compliance with regulations.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to more easily see ticks.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, high boots or closed shoes covering the entire foot, a hat, and tuck pant legs into socks or boots to delay ticks from reaching the skin.
  • Use insect repellents on non-facial skin and permethrin on clothes in accordance with EPA guidelines.
  • Shower and wash/dry clothes at high temperature after outdoor exposure.
  • Carefully check for ticks, and promptly remove with tweezers and skin-cleansing antiseptic.
  • Advise workers at risk of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and preventive measures.
  • Workers at high risk should get medical advice regarding injections with the Lyme disease vaccine LYMErix.

OSHA’s bulletin and fact sheet on Lyme disease can be downloaded from the agency’s Web site: www.osha.gov. For more detailed info on Lyme disease, go to the Centers for Disease Control web site: www.cdc.gov.

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