As warmer weather finally makes an appearance in much of the country, health professionals are cautioning of the rising risks of the tick-borne condition known as lyme disease. Doctors warn of an apparent increase in cases and is urging the public to take the necessary precautions to avoid infection.
According to reports, lyme disease has seen a significant increase in states like Vermont where local health officials say confirmed cases of lyme disease have grown from a mere 12 cases in the year 2000 to an excess of 500 cases last year. Health care professionals are warning that with the long cold months now over and warmer humid temperatures drawing near, ticks that transmit lyme disease are expected to be all the more present.
Doctors do warn that to avoid contracting lyme disease, there are a number of measures one can take to protect oneself from the rising risks. Covering exposed skin from the insects with bug repellent that contains DEET is one way to keep from getting bitten. Other forms of protection include wearing clothing that has been treated with insect repellent in its fabric is another form of lessening ones chances of coming into contact with blood sucking ticks.
Named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was first identified, it is considered a condition that is often known to be chronic stemming from infected deer ticks, that once contracted by humans, can lead to a myriad of health problems. Some problems include complications with muscles and joints, the nervous system, the brain, the heart, and in some instances paralysis. Experts consider lyme disease to be rarely fatal. Due to the tiny size of the deer tick, many are not aware they are carrying the insects that can stay attached to bodies for days, nor can those carrying the insect feel its bite. Those with pets are also cautioned to be extra vigilant as ticks can tend to burrow in pets which can in turn transfer over to humans. Health professionals warn that a pregnant mother can transmit lyme disease to her unborn child. The Centers for Disease Control classifies lyme disease as the most common insect borne disease with a reported 300,000 cases diagnosed each year, more than other infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS. Some health departments in counties like Hartford are dedicating the month of May as “Lyme Disease Awareness Month” to educate and inform the public.
Should one become bitten by an infected deer tick, doctors instruct to immediately remove the insect from the skin with a pair of tweezers. Ticks removed within 24 hours of being bitten are in some cases less likely to cause an infection as the bacteria in the venom has not reached the blood stream. Doctors and health officials warn that lyme disease is rampant in all parts of the country and the rising risks are no more susceptible in one geographical area over another. As the warmer weather brings more Americans outdoors, public health experts are hoping citizens will heed the safety precautions and adhered to them so that everyone can enjoy a safe summer.
By Hal Banfield