KINGWOOD — Preston County Health Officer Dr. Fred Conley said Lyme disease is on the rise in Preston County.
Conley said there were seven cases in July 2018 and five in August of that year. In 2019 there was 23 cases in July and 10 in August.
This year there were 28 cases in July and 22 in August.
Conley said Lyme disease is the most common tick borne disease in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, rarely, Borrelia mayonii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected deer ticks.
These ticks are found in forests or grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes or oceans. People or animals may be bitten by the ticks during outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, or even while spending time in their yards.
Conley said typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans. (Not everyone has the rash).
If not treated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
He said most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.
Conley said if left untreated later signs and symptoms of the disease can include swollen joints, knees and facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face.)
Besides Lyme, he said a tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), babesiois, anaplasmosis and ehrlichosis.
Conley said this tick borne illness can be fatal. He said in the past when it was untreated RMSF had an 80% mortality rate.
“RMSF is transmitted by the American dog tick,” Conley said. “We have about three to four cases a year.”
He said RMSF starts with a fever and headache. In two to three days a rash appears. The rash starts on the arm and wrist, then goes to the palms and soles of the feet.
Other systems could include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain and loss of appetite. If not treated, the disease can be fatal.
“If you have symptoms and rash and your doctor wants to do lab work ask for Doxycycline while you’re waiting for the results of the lab work.
It’s the recommended antibiotic for RMSF in adults and children of all ages,” Conley said.
He said to prevent both Lyme and RMSF disease when outdoors, use an insect repellent with DEET to treat clothing and gear, and check yourself, your children and your pets daily for ticks.
Conley said a tick has to be attached for 36 hours to spread Lyme disease.
He 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 you have tall grass around your house clear it away. Mow and keep the leaves raked, stack your wood in a dry area and put playground equipment in a sunny location away from trees and bushes,” Conley said.
The CDC recommends if you are bitten by a tick and have any of the Lyme disease or RMSF symptoms, contact your local health provider.