PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Lyme Disease in Western Pennsylvania is booming.

Children’s Hospital saw more than 400 cases in 2012, more than 500 in 2013 and nearly 700 cases so far this year.

“The highest incidence in the United State is boys ages 5 to 9, and western Pennsylvania looks exactly the same way,” said Dr. Andrew Nowalk with Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital.

And it’s more than just the early stage bull’s eye rash at the tick bite. It’s the progression to neurologic complications with facial weakness and meningitis, heart rhythm problems and swollen, painful joints.

“When we look at our own cases, we’ve seen a definite shift to more severe cases of Lyme,” said Nowalk. “We’re seeing them all over the hospital, in the emergency room, in the outpatient clinics, and a number of kids who are getting admitted.”

Fighting the trend has been a challenge because it’s not clear why the surge here is happening. Is it the way the deer and mice are migrating through the state? Is it the thriving population of ticks? Researchers are looking at these possibilities.

In the meantime, anytime you’re outdoors, keep Lyme disease in the back of your mind.

“Looking for ticks on you after you’ve been outdoors,” Nowalk said. “Wearing the right clothes, using some insect repellent, those are incredibly effective, basic strategies that will protect you most of the time.”

And if you do end up getting this bacterial infection, there is effective treatment.

“The antibiotic therapy that we have completely eradicates the bug,” said Nowalk. “People get better, especially children.”

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Dr. Maria Simbra