High-risk ar­eas for Lyme dis­ease grow­ing in the North­east and up­per Mid­west, study says

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM / HEALTH / ADVICE -

The ge­o­graphic ar­eas where Lyme dis­ease is a big­ger dan­ger have grown dra­mat­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to a new gov­ern­ment study pub­lished Wed­nes­day

U.S. cases re­main con­cen­trated in the North­east and up­per Mid­west. But now more ar­eas in those re­gions are con­sid­ered high risk.

“The risk is ex­pand­ing, in all di­rec­tions,” said the lead au- thor, Kier­sten Kugeler of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion.

There are now 260 coun­ties where the risk of catch­ing Lyme dis­ease is at least twice the na­tional av­er­age, up from 130 a decade ear­lier, the re­port shows.

Lyme dis­ease is most com­mon in wooded sub­ur­ban and far sub­ur­ban coun­ties. Sci­en­tists aren't sure why high-risk ar­eas are ex­pand­ing, but it likely has some­thing to do with de­vel­op­ment and other changes that cause the mice, deer and ticks that carry the bac­te­ria to move, Kugeler said.

Over­all, 17 states have high­risk coun­ties. The en­tire state of Con­necti­cut, where the ill­ness was first iden­ti­fied in 1975, has been high-risk for decades. Now, high-risk zones en­com­pass nearly all of Mas­sachusetts and New Hamp­shire and more than half of Maine and Ver­mont.

Other states that saw ex­pan­sion of high-risk ar­eas in­clude Vir­ginia, Penn­syl­va­nia and New York along the Eastern seaboard, and Iowa, Michigan and Min­nesota in the Mid­west.

The dis­ease is trans­mit­ted through the bites of in­fected deer ticks, which can be about the size of a poppy seed.

Symp­toms in­clude a fever, headache and fa­tigue and some­times a tell­tale rash that looks like a bull's-eye on the tick bite. Most peo­ple re­cover with an­tibi­otics. If left un­treated, the in­fec­tion can cause arthri­tis and more se­vere prob­lems.

About 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. cases are re­ported each year, but ex­perts say there ac­tu­ally are as many as 10 times more.

Some coun­ties have dropped off the high-risk list, in­clud­ing those in Vir­ginia, Ge­or­gia, Mis­souri and North Carolina where sig­nif­i­cant clus­ters were re­ported in the 1990s. Sci­en­tists now think those cases were caused by a dif­fer­ent tick bite, Kugeler said.

The ar­ti­cle was pub­lished online in a CDC jour­nal, Emerg­ing In­fec­tious Dis­eases.

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