New Hampshire Announces Increased Lyme Disease Cases
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is reporting an increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in New Hampshire. There were almost 1600 cases of Lyme identified in the State in 2008, in 2007 there were 901 identified, and in 2006 there were 617 cases identified in New Hampshire.
Although a recent change in the Federal definition of what constitutes a case of Lyme disease is in part responsible for the increase in 2008, the frequency of Lyme disease appears to be increasing in the State.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdoferi and is transmitted to people by the bite of an infected black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick). The greatest risk for Lyme is between the months of May and August when the black-legged tick is in the juvenile stage; it's the size of a poppy seed and very difficult to detect, so individuals may be unaware they have been bitten. Ticks that transmit Lyme can also transmit other diseases, such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Although not as common as Lyme, both diseases can also cause illness.
"We understand people are anxious to get outside and enjoy the spring weather after the long winter," said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. "While we encourage outdoor activity, we want everyone to consistently take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families from becoming ill from this disease."
The risk of becoming ill from Lyme disease is related to the abundance of infected ticks in a particular region. According to DHHS's surveillance data from 2008, the numbers of reported cases of Lyme were highest in southeastern areas of New Hampshire, including Hillsborough, Rockingham, Merrimack, and Strafford counties.
"This information is extremely helpful in helping us to better understand the health risks to people who live in specific areas of our State," said Public Health Director Dr José Montero. "We want people to know this disease can be serious, but can be preventable by avoiding being bitten by deer ticks."
DHHS recommends taking the following precautions to prevent tick bites:
* Avoid tick-infested areas such as overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter
* Use insect repellent labeled for ticks
* Wear protective clothing (long pants and long sleeves to keep ticks off skin)
* Do tick checks on yourself and family members after being outdoors
* Reduce ticks around your home by keeping grass short and removing leaf litter
* Speak with your healthcare provider if you are bitten by a tick
* Monitor yourself if you are bitten by a tick and contact your healthcare provider if you develop any symptoms