The State Health Department recently released figures showing that the number of confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases last year, actually dropped from 2011. They declined from 5,362 in 2011 to 5,033 in 2012 across Pennsylvania.
State health officials say they won't get figures for this year until next summer, so there's no way to know yet how many Pa. residents have come into contact with infected deer ticks.
But one local doctor says he knows it's worse in parts of our region.
Dr Matthew Bouchard,the director of Emergency Medicine at UPMC Altoona, says he's had 80 confirmed cases of Lyme disease since June of this year. All of last year, Blair County reported only 37, some confirmed and some probable.
Dr Bouchard says if you come into the ER with a deer tick on you, you won't be tested because it wouldn't show up positive yet, anyway. But patients with joint pain, fever, and flu -like symptoms who may have been bitten by a tick, will likely be given a blood test.
Bouchard's even seen people with a type of facial paralysis called Bell's Palsy, linked to Lyme disease, this year.
Dubois Regional Medical Center is also reporting more Lyme Disease cases this summer, with more extreme symptoms, including severe back pain.
It's important to keep in mind, though that antibiotics can effectively treat the disease. As Dr. Bouchard explains, "I wouldn't worry about it because it generally is an easily treated problem just like a lot of things are."
Dr Bouchard says it's important to try to protect yourself from tick bites. Avoid wooded areas, tall grasses and weeds, and use insect repellent.
Check yourself for ticks. Removing them before 36 hours reduces your chances of contracting Lyme disease. If you've possibly been bitten by a tick, show symptoms of the illness, and develop a bulls-eye rash, contact your doctor immediately.
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