Following a report nearly two months ago concerning the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease being present in blacklegged (deer) ticks in all 67 counties of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania health authorities reported last week that the number of Lyme disease cases increased by 25 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to newly released data. In 2014, the Department of Health recorded 7,400 cases of Lyme disease in the commonwealth, compared with 5,900 cases in 2013.

Black-legged tick
Ixodes scapularis, a Black-legged tick/CDC

The increase in cases can be attributed in part to heightened awareness about Lyme disease, better reporting, and enhanced monitoring efforts, particularly in Allegheny County. In fact, enhanced surveillance in Allegheny County saw an increase from 32 cases in 2013 to a whopping 822 cases seen in 2014.

In addition to Allegheny County, Butler County reported 412 and Montgomery County saw 384 Lyme disease cases.

“Lyme disease is present in every county in Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy, speaking at a press conference with Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker in Pittsburgh. “The prevalence of this illness serves as a reminder for people to better protect themselves from tick bites and to know the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. For those with the disease it is important to seek early treatment to avoid any potential long-term health complications.”

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released estimates of 300,000 Americans diagnosed annually.

Lyme disease is an illness transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (deer tick). Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and joint pain. A common early symptom is a red rash that looks like a bulls-eye.

Ticks can be found everywhere, but individuals should be especially cautious in areas with dense bushes or tall grass. When outdoors, use repellents with diethyltoluamide (DEET) and protective clothing. After outdoor activities, check for ticks and, if one is found, promptly remove it using fine-tipped tweezers and applying even pressure on the tick as it is being removed.

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