2013-09-12 / Front Page

Fulton Ranks 3rd In PA For Lyme Disease

Confirmed cases on the rise here
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Even though slightly cooler weather is just around the corner with the anticipated arrival of fall, residents are urged to remain diligent and cautious during outdoor activities due to the rising number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease here.

“This is not a disease that you want to let go for an extended period of time,” Lori Best, Fulton County Medical Center infection control preventionist, told the “News.”

Spread through the bite of infected ticks, the disease is spread in the northeastern portion of the nation through the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. Lyme disease was first recognized in 1975 following an unusual and unexpected outbreak of arthritis near Lyme, Conn.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, since its initial emergence, reports of Lyme disease have continued to “increase dramatically” and has “become an important public health problem in some areas” of the country.

In sharing statistics compiled by the CDC, Best stated that in the 2009 and 2010, Fulton County was ranked second in the state behind Cameron County for the highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme Disease. In those two years, 202 and 215 individuals tested positive for Lyme disease. That number jumped to 262 in 2011.

Best noted Fulton County is currently ranked third in the state for confirmed cases, falling behind Cameron and Clearfield counties. In addition, Pennsylvania is currently listed as having more confirmed cases than any other state in the nation.

While ticks are capable of attaching themselves to any part of the body, they are typically located in hard-to-see or hard-to-find areas such as the scalp, armpits or groin area. In the majority of cases, the CDC reports a tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

Early onset symptoms of Lyme disease can be marked by one of more symptoms that include a skin rash, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes.

While many think Lyme disease can be identified by a sympton known as a “bull’s eye” rash, Best noted individuals who have tested positive for the disease here have exhibited various sizes and types of rashes. For example, rashes have been present on legs, shoulders and arms and have included round spots and have the appearance of cellulitis.

Rashes, especially the bull’s eye, red circular rash, typically emerge at the site of the tick bite within three to 14 days. The patch can also grow in size.

“If you see a rash, it would be prudent to immediately seek the care of a family physician. Don’t wait or procrastinate,” said Best, who added various tests are available through your doctor.

As the disease progresses, an individual can experience joint pain or swelling, numbness, nerve paralysis and meningitis.

However, the CDC does note that all individuals “exhibit different signs and symptoms” of Lyme disease. In fact, some people never develop a bull’s eye rash but could develop arthritis or nervous system problems.

Hoping to help spread the word on Lyme disease, the Medical Center currently has a display in the main lobby. An information table will also be available at the hospital’s annual Healthy Sportsman Health Fair to be held Sunday, September 29, between noon and 4 p.m. The event will include free screenings, vendors, demonstrations, door prizes and games for kids.

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