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Outdoor workers at risk for Lyme disease

Outdoor workers in Minnesota could be exposed to Lyme disease if they work in areas with ticks carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 22,500 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States in 2010, and Minnesota was among the states with the highest number of reported cases.

Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of infected black-legged ticks and western black-legged ticks. The insects acquire the disease by biting other carriers of the bacteria, including squirrels and mice. Workers are most likely to encounter infected ticks during the spring and summer, especially when working in areas with trees, high grass and leaf debris. According to the CDC, the workers at most risk include landscapers, construction workers, forestry workers, farmers, railroad employees, park and wildlife employees and land surveyors.

In order to protect themselves, outdoor workers are urged to wear hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Clothing should be light-colored to make it easier to spot ticks. Insect repellents with 20 to 30 percent DEET should be applied to clothing and skin. Permethrin can also be applied to clothing for extra protection, but it cannot be placed on the skin. After each shift, workers should carefully check themselves for ticks, including their hair, groin and underarms. They should remove any ticks with tweezers and wash the affected area with soap and water.

Workers who experience symptoms of Lyme disease should seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms may include a growing circular rash, headache, joint and muscle aches, fever and fatigue. The disease can cause long-term medical problems as well. An attorney could help an infected worker file a claim for workers' compensation benefits that could cover medical expenses and provide a percentage of lost wages.

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