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Lyme Disease cases on the rise in Preston County

KINGWOOD — Cases of Lyme Disease in Preston County are “through the roof,” according to VJ Davis, director of the Preston County Health Department.

Davis made the statement during a Preston County Board of Health meeting Wednesday. He said although the state investigates the Lyme Disease cases in the county, health department staff does a lot of the follow up.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services office of Epidemiology, Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by bites from deer ticks or black-legged ticks. It is the most common tickborne disease in the United States and West Virginia.

“As far as Lyme cases, the state handles the case classification at this point so we don’t investigate those at the county level. I do see one to two cases per day for Preston County being reported currently,” Jeannie Welch, an RN for the Preston County Health Department, said. “I am sure that is under-reported as health care providers may not test if they see a patient with a bullseye rash, but rather they just go ahead and treat. I would stress prevention. Ticks can transmit other illnesses as well, but Lyme Disease is most common here.”

The numbers are climbing. According to the office of epidemiology, in 2014 one case of Lyme Disease was reported in Preston County; in 2015, three cases; 2016, five; 2017, 25 cases; 2018, 22 cases; 2019, 44 cases; and in 2020, 62 cases.

According to Medline Plus, symptoms of Lyme Disease starts between three to 30 days after a bite from an infected tick. The symptoms can include a red rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. If not treated it can spread to your joints, heart and nervous system.

Prevention can include avoiding areas where ticks live, such as grassy, bushy, or wooded areas. If you are hiking, walk in the center of the trail to avoid brush and grass. Use an insect repellent with DEET and treating your clothing and gear with a repellent containing 0.5% permethrin. Wearing light-colored protective clothing, so you can easily see any ticks that get on you; wear a long-sleeve shirt and long pants. Also tuck your shirt into your pants and your pant legs into your socks. Check yourself, your children and your pets daily for ticks. Carefully remove any ticks you find, and take a shower and wash and dry your clothes at high temperatures after being outdoors.

In other business, Davis gave an update on the proposed multipurpose building that will house the health department, WIC and the WVU Extension Office. The proposed building will be constructed on county property near the 911 Center, and the basement will be used to provide additional storage space for EMS and the 911 Center.

“We’ve implemented the changes we wanted, and I believe we now have a final version of the building. We’re meeting with the Mills Group on Aug. 22 and then we’ll be able to start finding funding,” Davis said.” I believe the county commission will find some grant funding.

Davis said a recent mental health meeting “went well and was well attended.” He said although the health department doesn’t offer mental health services, it can be a facilitator and bring mental health entities together. He said he would like to see regular meetings.

The Preston County Board of Health’s next meeting will be 1 p.m. Sept. 17.