Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes ticks, also known as deer ticks, and on the West Coast, black-legged ticks. These tiny arachnids are typically found in wooded and grassy areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the United States every year. However, because diagnosing Lyme can be difficult, many people who actually have Lyme may be misdiagnosed with other conditions. Many experts
believe the true number of cases is much higher.
Warmer Winters May Increase Number of Cases
In 2015, there were 9,427 confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in Pennsylvania, of which 396 of these confirmed cases were in Montgomery County. Due to back-to-back warmer winters, health officials are predicting that we may observe a bad tick season and therefore we could potentially see an increase in the number of cases of tick-borne illnesses. It is important to know that ticks infect most people when they are in the nymph stage (an immature stage) of development, because they are very small and difficult to see. The infected ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and
scalp (CDC, 2017). In most cases, the tick must be attached for 24 to 36 hours before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. Symptoms usually begin to appear within 3-30 days after a tick bite.
The most common symptom in most cases of Lyme disease is the Erythema Migrans (EM) rash, also called the “Bull’s Eye” rash that occurs around the bite area; however, this symptom varies widely, ranging between 30-80%.
Fatigue, fever, chills, muscle and joint pain are also common symptoms with Lyme disease. A blood test can help determine if someone is infected. Lyme disease can be treated by several weeks of antibiotics. If left untreated Lyme disease can affect the nervous system, joints and heart.
Take the Montgomery County Trail Challenge
Ticks should not prevent the community from continuing to be active. This summer, Montgomery County is promoting their Montgomery County Trail Challenge from May 6-December 3, 2017. The Trail Challenge allows for a family-friendly experience of exploring your community and benefiting your health by getting out on the trails. In support of this wonderful public health activity, Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) has created a Lyme Disease Awareness Flyer to post on the trails and in the parks to keep the community informed of their risk and how to prevent disease.
Do not let a tick make you sick!
• Use repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET on exposed skin and use products that contain 0.5% permethrin on clothing.
• Check for ticks daily. Be sure to check places like behind your knees, hair, and the ears. Thoroughly check your children, pets, clothing, and gear as well.
• Shower soon after being outdoors.
• Remove ticks found on body with fine tipped tweezers.
• Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter.
• Wear light-colored clothing, which will make it easier to see crawling ticks.
• Call your doctor if you get a fever or rash.
For more information on Lyme disease, please visit:
MCHD’s Lyme Disease web page, www.montcopa.org
CDC’s Lyme Disease web page , www.cdc.gov
WRITTEN BY LEONARD OLU-WILLIAMS, MPH, CHES
PUBLIC HEALTH INFO ANALYST, MONTGOMERY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Reprinted from the Montgomery County Medical Society publication, MCMS Physician, Summer 2017 issue.
Read more at mp.hoffmannpublishing.com