Medical experts are warning that Lyme disease cases in 2017 may be on the way up in the coming weeks and months, due to a huge rise in deer tick populations.
Summer is usually the time when Lyme disease is most common, and a report from Time suggests that Lyme disease may become a bigger problem than it usually is at that time of the year. Public health officials and other medical experts believe there is a good chance thousands of people may be at risk of contracting the tick-borne disease. Reforestation and climate change, the report adds, have combined to expand the range of deer ticks. And thanks to this year’s mild winter, an “unusually large” number of animals have been able to survive out in the wild, thereby serving as host to the eight-legged, potentially disease-bearing critters.
As early as March of this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had warned people about the growing deer tick population in the U.S., and that Lyme disease rates in 2017 may increase accordingly.
“Millions of Americans seek care for a tick bite each year in the United States and despite that very few of us are equipped to answer the questions,” said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat in a presentation cited by Time.
“The reported cases of tick borne diseases are increasing. The range of ticks that can carry diseases is expanding. The number of tick borne diseases that we’re aware of is increasing.”
Year-to-date stats for Lyme disease in 2017 are unavailable, but Time noted that over 25,000 people, particularly in the Northeast and northern Midwest parts of the U.S., were sickened by the disease in 2015. That is more than twice the estimated figure of 10,000 per year about two decades ago, based on the CDC’s official figures.
According to the CDCs official literature on Lyme disease, the illness is acquired by humans when bitten by infected black-legged ticks, or deer ticks. Classical symptoms of the disease include fever, fatigue, lethargy, headache, and a distinctive red rash — scientifically, this rash is known as erythema migrans. Untreated cases could have the disease affecting the joints, the nervous system, and even the heart and brain.
A separate article from WebMD notes that symptoms of “late persistent” Lyme disease may include arthritis, most often in the knee, numbness or a tingling sensation in the hands, feet, or back, lack of facial muscle control, and memory, sleep, or speech problems. These symptoms may manifest months, or even years, after infection, if the disease isn’t caught or treated in time.
Meanwhile, Lyme disease rates in 2017 are also expected to rise in Canada, according to a report from CBC. Public Health Ontario biologist Dr. Curtis Russell told the publication on Friday that his agency has observed a “steady increase” in Lyme disease cases in the province, with deer tick populations also trending upwards. Russell also warned that ticks are often found in “humid, brushy areas,” as opposed to a soccer field, for instance, where the grass is shorter and drier.
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— LymeDisease.org (@Lymenews) May 20, 2017
In relation to the tick that causes Lyme disease, CDC officials are also concerned about a rising number of Powassan (POW) virus infections. This disease, as the Inquisitr reported earlier this month, is still very rare, but is potentially deadlier than Lyme disease, as it can be transmitted within only 15 minutes of a tick bite, and possibly fatal, with an approximate mortality rate of about 15 percent. Symptoms of Powassan virus are similar to those of Lyme disease, and experts have also cautioned that it is common for sufferers to develop long-term neurological complications.
As Powassan virus and Lyme disease rates could go up in 2017, people can take several steps to ensure they don’t get bitten by infected deer ticks. The CDAC advises people to use insect repellent with 20 percent or more DEET, treat clothing with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin, and avoid the aforementioned brushy areas and walk in the center of trails. Those returning indoors after visiting areas frequented by ticks are also advised to bath or shower immediately, tumble-dry their clothes, and perform full-body tick checks, among other precautions.
[Featured Image by Getty Images]