Pennsylvania has the most tick-borne diseases in the country, according to the Center for Disease Control.
In 2017 there were 11,900 reported cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania, according to data from lymedisease.org. Ticks that carry Lyme disease have been found in each county.
“As the weather gets warmer and we all start spending more time outdoors, we want to emphasize that ticks are everywhere in Pennsylvania,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.
The number of tick-borne diseases has dramatically increased between 2004 to 2016. In 2016, 48,000 tick-borne disease were reported nationwide, while in 2004 there were 22,000 cases, according to the CDC.
Currently, more than 25 species of ticks have been identified in Pennsylvania. Of these, four species account for nearly 90 percent of all submissions to Penn State for identification. The four ticks are: the American dog tick, the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick, and a groundhog tick.
American dog ticks are the major carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is less common than Lyme disease, but a potentially more serious illness. This tick has also been known to transmit tularemia, and to cause tick paralysis. Babesiosis is transmitted by the blacklegged tick, the most common carrier of Lyme disease, and can be fatal for older patients.
“Ticks can carry many diseases that can be harmful to our health, such as Lyme disease. It is essential that when spending time outdoors… you take the precautionary steps needed to decrease your risk of tick bites,” stated Dr. Levine.
Those who are spending time outdoors should wear long sleeve shirts and long pants and use an insect repellent with DEET. After finishing time outdoors, it is important to thoroughly check yourself for ticks. Check pets that spend time outside too.
Staying on cleared paths and hiking trails when walking in heavily wooded areas is essential for protecting yourself and your family from ticks. If you get a rash or a fever, let the doctor know if you may have been exposed to ticks, even if you don’t remember having a tick bite.
“Whether it’s strong sun, severe weather or the presence of ticks and possible Lyme disease, outdoors enthusiasts must be prepared and proactive when they enter our state parks and forestlands,” said Department of Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.
If a circular rash appears, you should consult with a physician, as you may have Lyme disease. However, not all persons with Lyme disease develop a rash. Other symptoms are non-specific like fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and joint pain. If you get a rash or a fever, let the doctor know if you may have been exposed to ticks, even if you don’t remember having a tick bite.
Governor Tom Wolf has continued his commitment to addressing Lyme disease by proposing $2.5 million dollars in the 2019-2020 budget toward Lyme disease education, conducting surveillance, and building a more robust Lyme disease program with health care providers.