PARSIPPANY, NJ - With Lyme Disease cases rising at alarming rates across New Jersey, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and State Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal visited Mountain Way Park in Parsippany today to discuss efforts to stem the tide, and to raise awareness.  New N.J. Department of Health (DOH) data show the highest number of reported Lyme diseases cases in the state in nearly two decades, with Morris County topping the list, and new records set in ten of the state’s 21 counties. 

“Lyme disease is at a 17-year high in New Jersey,” Sen. Menendez said.  “With school winding down, summer on the horizon and us spending more time outdoors, we need an all-hands on-deck effort to combat the growing spread of Lyme disease.”

Lyme disease affects 300,000 people nationwide and it has tripled over the past 20 years.  Sen. Menendez says we need a better understanding of Lyme disease, a better way to test for Lyme disease, and aggressive strategies to prevent the spread of tick-borne infections. 

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“5,000 cases of Lyme disease were diagnosed in New Jersey last year – the highest since the year 2000, with the highest rate in Morris County,” said Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.  New Jersey saw a 17 per cent jump from 4,349 reported cases in 2016.  Morris County outpaced all others with a record-high 650 cases in 2017.

John Halperin, MD, medical director of Atlantic Neuroscience Institute and chair of the department of neurosciences at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, described Lyme disease as a bacterial infection.  

“It turns out the way the tick infects us is by staying attached to us for several days, and in the course of doing that injecting the organisms into us. So in reality the tick has to be attached for 24 to 48 hours before you’re at serious risk of Lyme disease,” said Dr. Halperin.

Lyme disease can be effectively treated if it is detected early.  Dr. Halperin said it can be avoided even if the tick has already attached. 

If untreated, Lyme disease causes flu-like symptoms. It can be cured with a round of antibiotics, especially with an early diagnosis. In severe cases it spreads infections throughout the heart and nervous system. The deer tick is most common in New Jersey, and it’s active throughout summer, spring and fall.

But Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal warned, “May, June and July, so right now, are the peak months for transmission of tick-borne illness.”

The state is warning residents, especially those with children and pets, to take preventive measures.

Below is the full county breakdown (*indicates new record-high)

ATLANTIC COUNTY 66

BERGEN COUNTY 303*

BURLINGTON COUNTY 227

CAMDEN COUNTY 159*

CAPE MAY COUNTY 22

CUMBERLAND COUNTY 99

ESSEX COUNTY 207

GLOUCESTER COUNTY 124

HUDSON COUNTY 72*

HUNTERDON COUNTY 444

MERCER COUNTY 222

MIDDLESEX COUNTY 321*

MONMOUTH COUNTY 550*

MORRIS COUNTY 650*

OCEAN COUNTY 302*

PASSAIC COUNTY 165

SALEM COUNTY 45

SOMERSET COUNTY 280*

SUSSEX COUNTY 331

UNION COUNTY 110*

WARREN COUNTY 393*