Health officials are warning those who spend time outdoors to be wary of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that affects an estimated 300,000 people in the United States every year.
In 2018, more than 700 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the city Department of Health, and those who live near wooded areas, including Pennypack Park, were more likely to be diagnosed with the illness.
The disease is treatable with antibiotics, but symptoms can worsen if it is not identified early.
“The most important sign of Lyme disease is an expanding ring on the body,” Dr. Ronald Goren, an infectious disease specialist at Nazareth Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center, told the Northeast Times. “It often is described as a bull’s-eye, but it isn’t always a bull’s-eye.”
Goren said the reddish ring is painless and may itch a little bit. Other signs include a low-grade fever, headaches and aches and pains in the joints, he added.
Confirmed cases of the disease more than doubled between 1997 and 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re definitely seeing increasing cases of Lyme disease over time,” Goren said.
He advised people to check themselves and their children for ticks after spending time in wooded areas. Normally, ticks burrow in odd places, such as armpits, hairlines and near the waist. If you spot a tick, grab a pair of tweezers and pull it out, Goren said.
“If you get it out within 24 hours, there’s no risk of Lyme disease,” he explained.
Ticks are usually found on bushes and other plants and are able to jump up to three feet to latch onto a target, Goren said. If possible, runners and hikers should stay near the middle of the trail to avoid their reach, he added.
In addition, applying repellents like DEET, picaridin and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus has proven to be effective in preventing tick bites. Those planning a woodsy adventure can also use Permethrin spray on their clothes.
Although June and July see the most cases of Lyme disease, the ticks that transmit the illness can stick around until September, especially if the weather stays warm, Goren said.
Goren said other tick-borne diseases, including anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Fever, are present in our region, though they are less common than Lyme. He said anyone with symptoms after a tick bite should call their doctor or visit an emergency room.
For more information on Lyme disease, visit www.cdc.gov/lyme. ••