Lyme disease affects thousands of Pennsylvanians each year; the commonwealth, by far, leads the country in Lyme disease cases. The most recent CDC number reflect 9,000 confirmed cases in 2017, with about a third of those originating from the northwestern region.
This year, the Pennsylvania State Department of Health is dedicating more resources to educate residents and raise awareness, prevent the spread of Lyme disease and develop a surveillance network.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.
The symptoms of Lyme disease, which present 3 to 30 days after a tick bite include:
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
Skin rash that resembles a bull’s eye (occurs in 70-80 percent of infected persons)
Other general symptoms may occur in the absence of rash
When detected early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover quickly and completely. However, left untreated, the disease can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.
Prevention is key when it comes to Lyme disease. Know where to expect ticks—they are at home in grassy, brushy or wood areas and they also live on animals. Most tick bites occur in the victims’ own yard or neighborhood. Wear protective clothing and use insect repellents with DEET when outside. Once indoors, check your clothing, skin and pets for ticks and shower within 2 hours.
If you do discover a tick on your body, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick, as this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet.
Sources: PA State Department of Health; Centers for Disease Control