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Pennsylvania tops United States in Lyme disease cases; officials urge caution

Posted 7/10/19

Pennsylvania Department of Health officials are reminding Pennsylvanians that ticks and mosquitoes can transmit dangerous diseases in their bites and encourage residents to learn the proper ways to …

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Pennsylvania tops United States in Lyme disease cases; officials urge caution

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Pennsylvania Department of Health officials are reminding Pennsylvanians that ticks and mosquitoes can transmit dangerous diseases in their bites and encourage residents to learn the proper ways to protect against them when outside this summer.

“Each year, mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and ticks that carry Lyme disease are found across Pennsylvania,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is essential that all residents know the proper ways to protect themselves against these dangerous diseases. We encourage all Pennsylvanians to get outside and be healthy by doing so in the safest way possible.”

Pennsylvania leads the nation with the greatest number of cases of Lyme disease with about 10,000 cases reported in 2018. Over time, if not treated, Lyme disease can lead to severe symptoms that affect the heart, nervous system and joints.

If you have been bitten by a tick, make sure to monitor the area for any symptoms, which can include a swollen bulls-eye shaped rash; fever; chills; headache; fatigue; muscle and joint aches; and swollen lymph nodes.

Ticks are found in shrubs, weeds, leaf litter, and tall grasses, but can be found anywhere there is grass. When outside, cover exposed skin, wear light colors to help see if ticks are on you, and use insect repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, according to health officials.

After being outside, check yourself, your children and your pets thoroughly for ticks and remove any that are attached. Then, take a shower to help remove any ticks. Putting clothes in the dryer using high heat will help kill any ticks that might still be left.

In 2018, there were 130 human cases of West Nile virus reported in the state. Mosquitoes that transmit West Nile breed in areas with standing water. Most people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, but about one in five will have symptoms that resemble other illnesses, which might include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash.

West Nile virus can also lead to other serious conditions such as encephalitis (brain swelling) or meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain). Other severe symptoms can include neck stiffness, confusion, disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness and paralysis.

Protect yourself from getting bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes by wearing insect repellent containing DEET during the April-to-October mosquito season, especially during dusk and dawn when many mosquitoes are actively feeding. Reduce the amount of standing water around your home. Cleaning the gutters on your house, emptying any outside containers, turning over any plastic pools and wheelbarrows when they're not being used and using landscaping to get rid of standing water that collects around your property are all ways to decrease the number of mosquitoes with West Nile virus, according to state health officials.

If you are having symptoms consistent with those caused from an insect or tick bite, contact your health care provider.

For more information on ticks and Lyme disease, or on mosquitoes and West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health website.