Significant Increase In Lyme Disease In New Hampshire Last Year
New Hampshire Department of Health announced that human cases of Lyme Disease increased dramatically in 2006 to 617 statewide, up from 271 in 2005.
The Division of Public Health Services attributes the increase to what is believed to be a greater number of infected ticks in New Hampshire, particularly the Southeast portion of the state, as well as increased awareness by doctors and other medical providers after a vigorous outreach by DHHS and other public health agencies for health care providers to look for the signs of Lyme Disease.
"This significant increase in Lyme Disease should be a warning to everyone about the importance of prevention," said DHHS Commissioner John Stephen. "Lyme Disease is spread by ticks and can be avoided by taking precaution when you are in areas where ticks might be. While Lyme Disease is easily treatable when it is caught early, it can have very severe complications if left unchecked. We urge everyone to follow basic protective measures, especially for those individuals in Strafford, Rockingham and Eastern Hillsborough Counties."
Lyme Disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, that is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks and cause more than 20,000 infections in the United States each year. If a tick feeds on an animal infected with Lyme Disease and then on a person, it can transmit the bacteria to the person. There is no evidence that Lyme Disease is transmitted from person to person. The illness is most prevalent in the northeastern part of the United States, which includes New Hampshire. The disease can be treated with antibiotics. There is no vaccine for Lyme Disease that is commercially available.
Lyme Disease starts as a large reddish circular rash around or near the site of the tick bite. During the rash stage, or occasionally prior to the rash, other symptoms included chills, fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, swollen glands, and muscle and/or joint pain. These may last for several weeks. If the disease is left untreated for a few weeks or months after the rash onset, complications such as meningitis, facial palsy, arthritis, and heart abnormalities may occur.
"If an individual has signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, regardless of a recognized tick bite, they should promptly seek medical attention," said Dr. Jason Stull, State Public Health Veterinarian. "Early diagnosis improves the outcome of treatment so it is important to promptly contact a healthcare provider if you are feeling sick or develop a rash. People may be exposed to Lyme disease wherever deer ticks are present, including their own yards, or other wooded or grassy areas. Whenever in areas with ticks, follow precautions to reduce tick bites and promptly remove attached ticks. Through these prevention methods we can remain active and continue to enjoy New Hampshire's outdoors."
To avoid Lyme Disease, in tick-infested areas, DHHS recommends that the public take the following steps: