Lyme Disease On The Rise in US

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) - The number of Lyme disease cases has doubled in the US in the past 15 years.

Lyme disease is the most common illness transmitted by a bug or animal in the US, with more than 21,000 cases of the disease now reported every year.

But if you're planning to spend the father's day weekend camping or hiking with dad, the good news for you is 93% of those cases are concentrated in 10 states, and Tennessee is not one of them.

Lyme disease most commonly occurs in June, July and August when infected ticks that carry the disease are most active.

But they're not very active here.

Lyme disease most commonly occurs in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and North Central states.

"We haven't seen an increase here locally in Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease is not typically something that occurs frequently in East Tennessee, it occurs in other parts of the country,” Knox County Public Health Officer Doctor Martha Buchanan says that's a blessing and a curse.

Early symptoms of Lyme disease infection include fever, headache, fatigue and a rash.

But because these symptoms are common and Lyme disease is uncommon in East Tennessee, it often goes undiagnosed.

"It does sometimes take a little while to diagnose. It doesn't pop into our heads right away, because it's not something we think about maybe as often as we ought to, simply because we don't see much of it,” says Dr. Buchanan.

And prompt diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent serious illness and long-term complications.

Left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

You can lower your risk for Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses by avoiding tick-infested areas when possible, using insect repellents containing DEET and performing daily self-examination for ticks.

But if you plan to spend this father's day weekend outdoors in East Tenneesse, another bug should also be creeping into your mind: mosquitoes.

"More than worrying about ticks, people in the Southeast, in Tennessee, need to be worrying about West Nile and Lacrosse and using DEET and protecting their children from mosquitoes," says Dr. Buchanan.

Last year, West Nile Virus killed 12 people and sickened 4,200 others.

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