WESTFIELD, NJ — More people are being diagnosed with Lyme disease, according to the nursing report reviewed at the Westfield board of health meeting on Monday.
The disease is expected to surge this year, according to health officer Megan Avallone. The culprit is white-footed mice, which are the biggest carrier of infected ticks and are expected to dramatically increase in population this season, Avallone said.
“As you can see with the report, we have a bunch of Lyme,” Avallone said. “We’re certainly expecting to see more Lyme disease this year. The problem is that you don’t know you have it until late manifestation.”
Board member Dr. Vasilios Diamantopoulos agreed, saying it’s important to recognize symptoms apart from a bullseye rash, which does not appear in every case.
“It’s so rare to find that rash,” Diamantopoulos said. “You just don’t see it. It’s vague symptoms.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, early symptoms of Lyme disease include the bullseye rash, as well as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms worsen as the disease progresses.
“Usually, people brush off symptoms at first,” Avallone said. “Most likely, if someone tested positive [now], we’re talking about an infection that happened months ago.”
People can use insect repellant that contains DEET or permethrin to prevent tick bites, the CDC said.
Following the nursing report, the board provided an update on Old Havana, a restaurant that was represented in a hearing before the board last month.
“They did make arrangements and go through certification,” Avallone said of Old Havana’s owner, Luis Alvarez, and his family.
Lastly, the board discussed raising the age to purchase nicotine products to 21, but agreed to postpone further discussion and plans until the next meeting.
The next board of health meeting will take place on May 1 at 5:30 p.m.