Ticks carrying Lyme disease are already making more people in Pennsylvania sick than anywhere else in the country and now there are seven newly discovered viruses carried by ticks to worry about, according to a report this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
The Lonestar tick, which has been found in Pennsylvania, can carry the Heartland virus. It can trigger an allergy to red meat as well as fever, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. Other ticks carry Bourbon viruses which make people sick with fever, vomiting, body aches and extreme tiredness. The American Dog tick can carry Tularemia, a virus causing skin ulcers, swollen glands, eye irritation and pneumonia-like symptoms. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can also be found here. If it is missed it can be fatal.
But here, the main concern continues to be Lyme disease.
Pennsylvania currently leads the nation in Lyme disease cases with nearly 9,000 people diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 2016 alone, the last full year reports were available. The same year, 456 cases were found in Lancaster County, according to health records from the state.
In two months alone last year, WellSpan Hospital treated more than 900 patients in Lancaster and Lebanon counties for Lyme disease.
Calling the rise in Lyme disease cases here an “epidemic,” Dr. Alan Peterson, a retired physician and board member on the Partnership for Public Health in Lancaster County, said the dangerous health problems that can come with Lyme disease, make it a very serious matter.
The Lyme disease virus can attack the body in many ways, including joints, the heart and nervous system. The typical treatment is two to three weeks of antibiotics.
“Some people with certain heart or nervous system illnesses caused by Lyme disease may need to be hospitalized. Other complications from Lyme disease may take longer antibiotic therapy,” said Peterson.
He pointed out that people can get Lyme disease mowing their lawn in Lancaster County, but are more likely to get it hiking in wooded areas with brushy areas.
“The tick is about the size of a poppy seed or sesame seed. It typically must be attached to your skin for at least 24-48 hours to pass the organism to you,” said Peterson. “Ticks that are attached for less than this, and those that are not engorged, are unlikely to pass the bacteria to you.”
The first symptoms of Lyme disease may be a rash that looks like a bull’s eye, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, neck stiffness and joint pain. Two distinct symptoms to look for are pain and swelling of the knees, especially in children, and a drooping of one side of the face called Bell’s Palsy, said Peterson.
“Do not let these symptoms go unnoticed because it may lead to severe health consequences,” he said.
Peterson also noted that CDC officials believe there really may be up to 300,000 cases of Lyme disease, because many times patients are misdiagnosed or the disease is not reported.
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The Partnership for Public Health is interested in your story of Lyme disease and your thoughts on treatment. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.