Local experts anticipate an increase in Lyme Disease this spring and experts are urging precaution to aid in prevention.
“We are certainly expecting to see more Lyme’s this year,” said health officer Megan Avallone at an April Westfield Board of Health meeting. “The problem is that you don’t know you have it until late manifestation.”
The rise in cases is likely due to the increase in white-footed mice. Black-legged ticks feed on these rodents and become infected with Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacterium responsible for Lyme Disease.
“Since ticks feed on mice and deer, anything that affects the tick, mouse or deer population could influence the number of Lyme cases,” said Dr. Daniel Hart, an infectious disease specialist at Summit Medical Group. Dr. Hart continues, “Any New Jersey resident can walk into their backyard and be bit by a tick with Lyme.”
The best way to avoid contracting this disease is to take simple precautions when outdoors. The Westfield Board of Health provides these simple precautions.
- Avoid potential tick-infested areas. Keep your grass cut low. Avoid overgrown grass, brush and leaf piles. Walk in the center of Trails.
- Wear insect repellant of at least 20% DEET on clothes and exposed skin. You can use permethrins on clothes, but not on skin.
- After an outing, check your children and yourself for ticks. Remove any ticks found.
- Shower soon after being outdoors to wash off and more easily find ticks on your
- Get medical advice if you get a fever or rash.
Dr. Hart of Summit Medical Group adds that performing daily tick checks, spraying clothes with repellent, protecting pets, and covering exposed skin can also help in the prevention of contracting Lyme Disease.
However, if you find a tick on your body, it’s important to know that ticks must be attached for more than 24 hours before the disease can be transmitted. If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible by using tweezers to grasp the tick tightly. Pull the tick straight up by the head. Look out for flu-like symptoms and report any symptoms to your physician immediately.
Early and aggressive treatment can ensure the best chance of recovery. Symptoms to look out for include the signature bulls-eye rash, but Westfield Board of Health member Dr. Vasilios Diamantopoulos, reminds us that the rash is not always present. “It’s so rare to find that rash. It’s vague symptoms.”
Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. As the disease progresses, symptoms become more pronounced.
According to Summit Medical Group, treatment of Lyme Disease typically includes a course of antibiotics. Depending on symptoms and the length of the infections, treatment may last from 10 days to several weeks.