What you need to know about Lyme disease
The weather is warmer and people are spending more and more time outdoors.
The month of May means time spent in the garden, hiking in the woods and all sorts of other outdoor activities. It also means that the season of Lyme disease has come.
And Pennsylvania is the zero place for this disease.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania led the nation in reported cases of Lyme disease over the past few years. In 2019, the last year for which data is available, the state accounted for about 29% of cases nationwide with just over 6,700.
The state health department said the number of cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania in recent years has exceeded 10,000, with the disease present in all 67 counties of the state.
Dr Debra Powell, head of infectious diseases at Reading Hospital, said there had been an increase in Lyme disease in southeastern Pennsylvania over the past two decades as tick-borne mites migrated further south and west of their original home in the Cape. Cod area.
Powell called the region an endemic area for Lyme disease, saying that on average across Pennsylvania, about 37% of ticks carry the disease.
Experts say warm and humid springs over the past two years are likely to worsen the situation in 2022, allowing mite-feeding plants to thrive and mite populations to explode.
So what does that mean? Here’s what you need to know about Lyme disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease caused mainly by the bacterium Borreia burgdorferi and transmitted to humans through tick bites.
Powell said that in Pennsylvania, the disease is usually transmitted by deer ticks, small black insects, also known as black-footed ticks. Ticks need to consume blood to develop at different stages of their life cycle, she said, and can become infected with Lyme disease if they feed on an infected animal, most often a white mouse.
If an infected tick decides to feed on humans, it can transmit Lyme disease to them. The disease is usually transmitted to humans only if the tick feeds on it for a day or more.
May is sometimes considered a high risk for Lyme disease when ticks become very active.
“It’s considered tick season,” Powell said. “Ticks hatch very early in the spring and right now they are looking for something to eat. They are looking for mammals to feed on. ”
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Symptoms of Lyme disease appear at different stages, Powell said.
The first is his trademark red bull-shaped rash. When the disease runs through the bloodstream, it can cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue and chills, similar to what someone feels from the flu.
Early symptoms usually appear 3-30 days after the bite of an infected tick.
If left untreated, Lyme disease can affect a person’s joints, heart and nervous system.
Severe symptoms include:
• Fast heartbeat or irregular heartbeat.
• Dizziness and shortness of breath.
• Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
• Nervous pain.
• Numbness or shooting pain in hands or feet.
• Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling.
• Short-term memory loss.
• Paralysis of the face.
The disease can lead to loss of consciousness or even the need to install a pacemaker.
More severe symptoms develop 30 or more days after the bite.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, usually doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil. However, some people may not feel fully recovered after treatment, according to the Department of Health.
Symptoms that persist after treatment are known as Lyme disease syndrome after treatment and are believed to be the result of tissue damage caused by Lyme disease. Symptoms usually disappear within a few months with appropriate treatment.
Lyme disease can be diagnosed by a blood test.
Can Lyme disease be prevented?
The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to prevent ticks from eating you.
And there are several ways to do that, Powell said.
Since ticks usually get Lyme disease from mice, keeping mice away from your property is a good idea. Powell said humans should also prevent deer from hanging out on their property because they can also transmit the disease to ticks.
Pets should also be checked for ticks, Powell said.
When outdoors, such as gardening or walking in the woods, it’s best to wear long sleeves and tuck your pants into shoes, Powell said. Wearing light clothing helps make it easier to see little ticks.
And when you’re done with outdoor activities, Powell added, you should do a check for ticks.
If you find a tick on yourself, you should remove it as soon as possible, Powell said.
To remove the tick, hold it firmly as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. After removing the tick, rinse the area with soap and water.