Tick-borne illnesses on the rise in Preston County and W.Va.

KINGWOOD – There is a dramatic rise in Lyme Disease in Preston County and West Virginia, Dr. Fred Conley told members of the Preston Health Board last week.

Jeannie Welch, a public health nurse at the Preston County Health Department, agreed. She said the deer tick (or blacklegged tick) is the culprit. “Their larva is very tiny, about the size of a poppy seed,” she said.

Welch said ticks can be found year round, even in winter. She said they can be brought into the house by pets or people. “Ticks hitch rides on clothing. If a tick is on a blade of grass and you brush against it, it will hitch a ride.”

Although the Center for Disease Control does not have 2017 numbers posted for the state or county, its 2016 numbers indicate 368 cases was reported state wide.

In a memo, Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner and State Health Officer, stated that in 2017, 675 confirmed and probable cases of tick borne diseases were reported in West Virginia, of which 96 percent were Lyme disease. “West Virginia will report the highest number of Lyme disease cases on record in 2017,” Gupta wrote.

According to the CDC, Lyme disease is transferred to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans. If not treated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Welch said after being outdoors take a shower, wash your hair and check for ticks. “Check your feet, arm pits, behind your ears, use a mirror if you have to. Check your children’s hair,” she said. “Wash your clothes in hot water and run them through the dryer.”

The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health recommends wearing light colored clothing when spending time outdoors to spot crawling ticks more easily. Staying in the center of trail areas helps to avoid ticks when hiking. It also recommends using an insect repellent such as DEET at concentrations of 20 percent to repel ticks.

Welch said to remove a tick use fine tipped tweezers to grasp it as closely to the skin surface as possible. Steadily pull the tick away from the skin to avoid crushing its body. Cleanse the bite area with an antiseptic. If the tick’s mouth parts remain in the skin, call your doctor.

Welch said there has been a few positive tests for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) in Preston County. This disease is also spread to humans through a tick bite.

According to Medline Plus, about 1 in 1,000 wood and dog ticks carry the RMSF bacteria. The bacteria can also infect people who crush ticks they have removed from pets with their bare fingers. Untreated, the infection can lead to brain damage, clotting problems, heart and/or kidney failure, lung failure, meningitis, pneumonitis (lung inflammation) and shock.

Symptoms are chills and fever, confusion, headache, muscle pain, diarrhea, light sensitivity, hallucinations, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, thirst and a rash that starts a few days after the fever. It first appears on wrists and ankles as spots then spreads to most of the body. Not all people who are infected get a rash.

If you are bitten by a tick and have any of the Lyme disease or RMSF symptoms contact your health provider.

  • For more information:

    medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000654.htm

  • prestoncountyhealthdepartment.com/ or call 304-329-0096. The Preston County Health Department has a video called Deep Look PBS about ticks.
  • cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
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