Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The season for bare arms and bare legs is upon us; and apparently, so is Lyme disease with Pennsylvania in the bull’s eye.
“Pennsylvania is a beautiful state, lots of parks and lots of places to wander,” says Dr. Andrew Nowalk, an infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. “So, if you put those deer and those ticks in contact with Pennsylvanians more frequently, we’re certainly going to see more cases in adults and in children.”
The tick that carries the illness is moving away from the coast and into the interior.
“Allegheny County used to be a fairly protected area for Lyme disease, and that’s no longer the case. The northern counties, like Butler and Beaver, the Dubois area, we see a lot of people being infected in those areas,” says Dr. Nowalk.
The cases of this infection have grown 78 percent in Pennsylvania over the past 10 years.
“We’ve seen double digit cases the last few years, many of them being hospitalized for the complications of their disease,” Dr. Nowalk added.
A classic bull’s eye rash, joint pain, heart problems, even meningitis can be signs of Lyme disease. Luckily, it can be treated with antibiotics.
So far, the health department is only aware of one case in Allegheny County this year. There were 18 reported cases last year.
Dr. Nowalk believes doctors just aren’t telling the health department, especially in simple cases.
Protect yourself with bug spray and thorough tick checks.
“Look under their hairlines, look on their body for places a tick might hide,” advises Dr. Nowalk. “If you can get the tick off pretty quickly, there’s no chance it’s going to transmit Lyme disease.”