This bites. The Garden State is in the heart of tick season.

Thousands of probable and confirmed cases of Lyme disease, an illness transmitted by the deer tick, are recorded in New Jersey on a yearly basis. Many of these cases likely could have been easily avoided if residents had been more diligent in protecting themselves.

“Right now is prime tick season, so please check yourself, your kids and your pets for ticks after being outdoors,” said Amy Rowe, an associate professor and county agent at Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Essex and Passaic counties.

Other prevention measures include wearing protective clothing, using insect repellents, keeping lawns and shrubs trimmed, and avoiding wooded areas.

Immature ticks in the nymph stage are most active through early July, Rowe said. They're tiny and people often don't notice them, which is why they are responsible for most Lyme cases in the state and region.

"They are on the move, they are active, they are looking for a host to feed on, they need blood to molt into adults," Rowe said. "So right now is sort of a danger zone."

Not every deer tick carries Lyme, and you're unlikely to attract the illness if you spot the tick and remove it within 24 hours, Rowe said.

Rowe is hosting a webinar on Monday, June 22, at 6:30 p.m. to educate the public on ticks and how to prevent disease.

The state recorded about 4,000 probable and confirmed Lyme cases in 2018, the most recent year for which statistics are available. At 498, Monmouth County recorded the highest number of cases, followed by Morris and Hunterdon counties. The 2018 tally was down significantly from 2017, when the state recorded its highest number of cases in two decades (5,092).

Symptoms of Lyme may include fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, joint pain, and a rash that looks like a bull's-eye. If left untreated, an infected person may develop more severe issues such as nervous system and heart problems.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.