Lyme disease numbers spiking in Western Pennsylvania
Cases of Lyme disease have spiked in Western Pennsylvania as the number of deer ticks in the region continues to grow.
Deer tick numbers have been steadily growing after the disease-carrying insect was nearly wiped out when mining operations thinned deer herds in the region decades ago, said Steve Jacobs, an entomologist at Penn State University. The ticks need deer to breed.
“This species of tick is coming back and repopulating, so places where Lyme disease wasn't a problem before will see it become a problem,” Jacobs said.
Butler led Western Pennsylvania counties in cases of Lyme disease with 332 reported in 2013, followed by Armstrong County with 232, according to the state Department of Health. Armstrong had only five cases reported in 2006. About 3 percent of tick bites result in Lyme disease, health officials said.
“Ticks never went away completely, but they thinned out so much that they've become more noticeable over the last several years,” Jacobs said.
Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said Lyme disease, caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans by ticks that can infect joints, the heart and the brain, is almost always treatable with antibiotics if caught early.
“When it goes undiagnosed and untreated, serious complications may develop, such as chronic arthritis and neurologic problems,” Hacker said.
Early Lyme disease symptoms are often similar to a mild flu and bites do not always result in a tell-tale “bull's-eye rash” that is often a recognizable sign of being bitten, she said.
Health officials recommend people:
• Avoid wooded or bushy areas where ticks are likely live.
• Stay on trails when hiking and avoid brushing against foliage, plants or high grass.
• Cover exposed skin with clothing or insect repellent.
• Check for ticks and bathe after being outdoors;
• Check pets for ticks.
Brad Pedersen and Aaron Aupperlee are staff writers for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Crash leaves Burrell Township family without father, friend
- Kittanning, Kiski police getting trained to help abuse victims
- Teachers at 2 Armstrong schools go casual for a cause
- Family escapes house fire in Kittanning
- Armstrong County Jail commitments since Dec. 13
- Project Joy lifts Christmas spirits at Armstrong County Health Center
- Samples show Plumcreek gas leaks aren’t methane
- Dayton crash victim remains hospitalized
- South Buffalo church nears end of more than a century of worship
- Donation another step toward new roof at Cowansville veterans center
- Kittanning website being upgraded after borough purchase