There were 11,900 confirmed and probable cases in the state in 2017, according to government data. The growing health problem has prompted officials to launch initiatives to deal with it.
Anne Desjardins was bitten by a tick, but she doesn't know when.
She noticed ticks in the backyard of her Wyomissing home, but never imagined the mark they'd leave on her life.
She began to suffer fatigue in 2010. Not the tiredness of sleep, but "incredibly horrible fatigue," she recalls. That was followed by hives, dizziness while driving and hearing in her left ear.
There was a funny sensation in the left side of her face. She had trouble speaking and remembering things. At first, doctors could find no physical ailment. It was stress or depression, they said.
"It just didn't make sense what was happening to me," said Desjardins.
It wasn't until 201
She isn 'a disease caused by bacteria transmitted by the bite of a black-legged tick, commonly known as a tick.
New tick found in Pennsylvania is drawing plenty of attention. t alone in battling her illness
Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease: 11,900 in 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
It's a growing health problem that has prompted state and local officials to launch initiatives to deal with it.
Pennsylvania has started a five-year survey on ticks in all 67 counties, a move that will help determine the threat of disease-bearing ticks. Since the survey began last July, the Department of Environmental Protection has captured more than 3,600 adult ticks and sends them to a department lab, where their DNA will be studied, according to Elizabeth Rementer, and DEP spokeswoman.
"We don Know the frequency in each county, "said Nate Wardle, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which is funding the survey. "This will help us if we communicate with people on how to protect themselves."
Meanwhile, the state house approved a bill last Wednesday that would require health insurers to cover long-term antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease if a physician prescribes it for a patient. Insurers currently pay for a two-to-four-week regime of antibiotics. A similar bill awaits action in the Senate
Dragging for ticks
As part of the state tick survey, Berks County initiated "tick dragging" dragging a field cloth over grassy parks and other areas to capture ticks – last summer at Blue Marsh Lake, French Creek State Park and other areas, said Evan Corondi, an educational outreach coordinator for the Berks County Conservation District.
Dragging will resume in May, when nymphal typically ticks "questing" – perched on a said blade of grass or plant with its front legs outstretched, waiting to latch onto a passing host, such as a hiker or deer, said Corondi. The young ticks are typically about the size of a poppy seed.
Berks is one of 38 counties, counting the ticks, which causes the most tick-borne illness in Pennsylvania, according to the DEP. Other types of ticks can be found in the state, which carries other diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
"These ticks have the potential of carrying a multitude of diseases," said Corondi.
The five-year survey is funded from an additional $ 2.5 million appropriated in the Health Department's 2018-2019 budget to pay for initiatives recommended by a state Lyme disease task force.
In Chester County, which has the highest number of confirmed and probable cases – more than 10,600, according to TickCheck.com, tick testing lab in East Stroudsburg, officials have placed plastic green tick traps, called tick control stations, at every county park.
The stations use corn to attract the traps. Deer must stick their head between two paint rollers, covered with a tick-killing chemical, to eat the corn. The stations, costing about $ 500 each have been effective in catching ticks, said Chris Wales, a park ranger at Warwick County Park, where a station sits near the entrance.
Hunters who have bagged deer in Chester have confirmed that " a lot few ticks on them, "said Wales.
Lyme bill in Harrisburg
Pennsylvania has led the nation in the number of Lyme diseases cases for seven years, one reason that state Rep. Kathy Rapp, Warren County Republican, sponsored the bill to require insurers to pay for antibiotic treatment to patients.
Her bill was approved by the House at 154-38 vote on Wednesday. It faces Senate opposition: The Senate rejected a similar bill last session, though "I'm very hopeful we got the bill passed in the Senate this session," said Rapp.
"I would imagine every single legislator has constituents who are diagnosed with and are suffering from Lyme disease, it's so prevalent in Pennsylvania, she said. About 60 percent of patients with Lyme disease were treated with antibiotics longer than the two- to four-week treatment that insurance covers, according to to Rapp.
Some insurers have maintained that a long-term antibiotics regimen may not be effective. The bill assumes that the treatment options can change for patients as medical understanding of Lyme and other tick borne illnesses "rapidly evolving in the next decade. . "
Illness can be 'invisible'
Desjardins, 40, a paper products salesperson, has posted a series of videos on her Facebook page to offer information and encouragement to other Lyme sufferers. She credits antibiotics, nutritional supplements, healthier eating and yoga with her recovery, but she remembers how alone she felt in the illness.
Lyme disease's symptoms – fatigue, fever, muscle aches, and joint pain – are not uncommon, and Desjardins did not have a bulls-eye-shaped rash, which is a common sign of a tick bite. A correct diagnosis can be elusive – 20 percent to 30 percent of patients have falsely tested negative for Lyme, perhaps because they have not had time to develop, according to LymeDisease.org, a California-based advocate for Lyme patients.
At first, "I was told there was nothing wrong with me," said Dejardins. "It's invisible. People can't see what's happening inside you. I thought about killing myself many times because I didn't want to deal with it any more."
For Desjardins, some visits to doctors, antibiotics, supplements and other costs came out of pocket.
"I promised you, I would have my soul feel better again," she said.
Protect yourself from ticks
The number of tick-borne diseases doubled in the US between 2004 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, a record 59,349 cases were reported, and that probably reflects only a fraction of the actual count. Some tips for prevention:
- Check your clothing, body and pets upon return from the backyard, woods or other infested areas.
- Place clothes in a dryer on high heat at least 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after coming indoors.
- Treat within and hours indoors to wash off unattached ticks.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. DEET, picaridine, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone.
How to remove a tick
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close as possible to the surface of your skin. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick.
Thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag / container , wrapping it tightly in tape or flushing it down the toilet.