Long Branch, N.J.-- Reported cases of Lyme disease have more than doubled since 1991, when Lyme became a nationally notifiable disease, according to a report published June 14, 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report also said 93 percent of reported cases were concentrated in 10 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
“Lyme disease can affect people of all ages, but nearly one half of all cases occur in children and adolescents,” says Margaret C. Fisher, M.D., FAAP, Medical Director of The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center and the Section of Infectious Disease. “Most illnesses occur in June, July and August, when the infected ticks that carry the disease are most active.”
Lyme disease is the most common of all the diseases in the United States transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, with approximately 20,000 cases reported each year. The report says that during 2003-2005, a total of 64,382 Lyme disease cases were reported to CDC from 46 states and the District of Columbia. In 1991 fewer than 10,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported.
Early symptoms of infection include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. The first sign of Lyme disease is often a rash, which starts as a small red dot that may look like a mosquito bite, and then expands to a large ring that may be up to 12 inches in diameter. Patients also can experience joint pains, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms (fatigue, headaches, fever, chills).
Only about one-half of patients with Lyme disease remember having a rash and only one-third of them remember being bitten by a tick. Left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Dr. Chalom says familes should watch for symptoms especially in these areas with intense Lyme disease transmission, and see a health care provider if these develop. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent serious long-term complications.
"While this increase is of concern, these rates highlight the need to focus on prevention of this disease, “says Dr. Chalom. “People living in areas where Lyme disease is most frequently reported can take proactive steps to reduce their risk of infection.”
Prevention of Lyme Disease
Prevention steps include daily tick checks (self examination for ticks), use of repellent containing 20 percent or more DEET, selective use of insecticides that target ticks, and the avoidance of tick-infested areas. Removing ticks within 24 hours of attachment greatly reduces the likelihood of disease transmission. Tick populations can be reduced 50 to 90 percent through landscaping practices such as removing brush and leaf litter, and creating a buffer zone of wood chips or gravel between forest and lawn.
Some other ideas for avoiding Lyme disease include:
- Dress in a long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into socks so insects cannot crawl underneath the pants.
- Wear light-colored clothing to facilitate seeing ticks.
- Check your children’s skin for ticks daily, even after playing in your own back yard. According to Yale Medicine magazine, one epidemiologist reports that nearly 70 percent of Lyme disease cases are contracted in patients’ own yards.
- When checking for ticks, be sure not to overlook the scalp, behind the knee and under the arms.
- Stay on trails; ticks wait for you and animals on the top of weeds and brush. In general, if you can see your shoes, you won’t encounter a tick. On study of golfers showed that tick bites and Lyme disease were more common in novices who spent time in the rough and in the woods!
Treatment for Lyme Disease
The Section of Infectious Disease at Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center provides comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care for children with a wide variety of infectious diseases and related circumstances, including: immunization, Lyme disease, recurrent fever/infections, immune-deficiency disorders, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and travel associated problems and advice. If you are concerned that your child may have Lyme disease or another rheumatologic illness, you can make an appointment by
calling (732) 923-7251.
CONTACT: Beth Salamon
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