Recent data shows that the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in our area are among the highest in Virginia and it's not just one thing causing that jump.
"Each year, for the last several years, we've seen an increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme disease," said Dr. Charles Devine.
Devine is the health director for the Lord Fairfax Health District. He says the tick that carries Lyme disease in Virginia is the Blacklegged Tick. He says the increase is not particular to the Northern Valley, but is true across Virginia.
"It's a combination of more cases being discovered and people becoming aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease along with an actual increase in the amount of disease in the area," said Devine.
A map of Virginia put together by the Virginia Department of Health shows in 2005 that there weren't that many cases in our area of Lyme disease, but then in 2011 it became heavily concentrated in our area, mostly in Clarke County.
"There is a standard definition for what we will count as a case. And many more people are treated for Lyme disease than we will count as cases because the laboratory testing wasn't sufficient for us to say yes we know for a fact that this is a case," said Devine.
Devine says there's not a definite answer for why there's been an increase in Lyme disease over the years.
"I'd love to be able to say well it's because of A and B, but I think that many factors contribute. As population increases and as we see more and more folks go into areas that are prime tick habitat for the tick that carries Lyme disease we have more opportunity for Lyme disease to spread," said Devine.
Devine says we're past the peak of Lyme disease. You will see a lot of cases reported in June, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to get infected now.
Devine says to use tick repellent, it's similar to bug spray and to check you're body when you get back from being in the woods. He also says tick borne illnesses are treatable and generally respond to the same type of antibiotics.
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