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Ticks are out and Lyme disease is increasing

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PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR) - Our state, with its mild winter and the recent rains, has the perfect conditions for nasty, bloodsucking ticks. Because ticks can carry Lyme and other diseases, doctors say prevention, as well as early detection is key—in both children, adults and pets.

Analysis of CDC data shows that, nationwide, since 1999, there has been a 136 percent increase in Lyme disease.  Almost every state in the Top 12 most infected states is along the East Coast--Virginia included.

In 2009, nationwide, there were almost 40,000 reported cases of Lyme disease.

Is the disease on the rise in humans or have detection and reporting methods improved? Or have we driven deer into the suburbs by developing over large tracts of land?

Probably all of the above.

“When you have an explosion in the deer population (a tick’s main source of blood) then you have an explosion of ticks,” Dr. David Gaine said, an expert at the Virginia Department of Health.

Gaines pointed out those suburban tracts provide lots of forage for deer and also eliminate hunting. Essentially, deer have reached capacity Gaines said, and populate at around “200 deer per square mile.”

In Virginia, there has been a 368% increase of Lyme’s cases.

Analysis of CDC data shows that in 2000, there were 149 cases reported, and in 2009 there were 698.

In 2010 there were 911 confirmed Lyme disease cases.

Tips to follow:

  • Avoid tall grass and dense vegetation.
  • Walk in the middle of mowed trails to avoid brushing against anything.
  • Cut your grass and thin your underbrush.
  • Get rid of places where small rodents live.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks are easier to see.
  • Tuck your pant legs into socks and boots.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts buttoned at the wrists.
  • Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks every 4 hours to 6 hours.
  • Use tick repellent that contain 30 percent DEET or 0.5 percent permethrin.
  • Ask your veterinarian to recommend tick control methods for your pets.

Source: Virginia Department of Health

 The CDC said that these are the major symptoms of Lyme:

  • Bulls-eye rash, or other rashes in other areas of the body
  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
  • Pain and swelling in the large joints (such as knees)
  • Heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat
  • Shooting pains that may interfere with sleep
  • Facial or Bell's palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face)
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Cognitive defects
  • Chronic fatigue

 There is also a Lyme Disease test for animals, just ask your local veterinarian.