Every season has its many blessings. Spring brings us back outdoors to many activities.
For me, two of my favorite are spring gobbler hunting and fly-fishing. Being out in nature reminds me of the vastness of God’s creation and how small I really am. It is a time of renewal and re-energizing.
This year, as we enjoy outdoor activities, it brings to mind the increased number of Lyme disease cases we are seeing at the medical center with several patients experiencing the more serious side effects.
While we don’t enjoy worrying people, it does appear there is a marked increase in incidence of Lyme disease in Indiana County recently and we encourage you to enjoy the outdoors but take some simple precautions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported a higher incidence of Lyme disease — a bacterial infection that features a skin rash, swollen joints and flu-like symptoms.
While everyone is susceptible to tick bites, campers, hikers and people who work in gardens and in other leafy outdoor venues are at the greatest risk of being bitten by them, particularly in the northern and southeastern parts of Pennsylvania.
Lyme disease can cause fever, headaches, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. Left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system. Permanent damage to the joints or the nervous system can develop in patients with late Lyme disease. But it is rarely, if ever, fatal.
These ticks are very small and difficult to see without close inspection. There are many things that you can do to prevent a tick bite including:
• Avoid wooded, brushy, and grassy areas, especially in May, June and July (contact the local health department or park/extension service for information on the prevalence of ticks in specific areas)
• Wear light-colored clothing so that you can see ticks that get on you.
• Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts
• Wear shoes that cover the entire foot
• Tuck pant legs into socks or shoes and tuck shirts into pants
• Wear a hat for extra protection
• Spray insect repellent containing DEET on clothes and exposed skin other than the face, or treat clothes with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact
• Walk in the center of trails to avoid brush and grass
• Remove your clothing and wash and dry them at high temperatures after being outdoors
• Do a careful body check for ticks after outdoor activities
• Remove the tick with tweezers and dispose of them properly
Pennsylvania has the sixth-highest incidence of Lyme disease in the U.S. A combination of our forest/field geography, size of our deer herd, and our population density all contribute to this. We started to notice an increase in Lyme disease in Indiana County; so far in 2013 (in six months), we have seen 47 cases.
So as the days warm up, please enjoy the outdoors. Just keep these simple tips in mind. It’s important to be informed so that you can take better care of yourself.