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What Lancaster County residents should know about Lyme disease, West Nile virus and Zika

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Although still high, the number of new Lyme disease cases reported in Lancaster County last year was quite a bit lower than totals for the last several years, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Including confirmed and suspected cases, 309 were reported in Lancaster County last year, down from a record high of 564 in 2017.

Lyme disease is spread by ticks, and if untreated can blow up to cause chronic and debilitating arthritis, fatigue, impaired motor functions and senses, an enlarged heart, and even death in rare cases.

What works to head off bugs before they bite?

When caught promptly and treated with antibiotics, full recovery is the norm.

Pennsylvania, which since 2011 has had more cases each year than any other state, also dropped, from 11,900 cases to 10,208.

National numbers are not yet available for 2018; for 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 42,743.

The CDC also notes that studies suggest that the actual number of people who get Lyme disease could be 10 times higher than the reported number of cases.

State officials encourage preventive measures, such as wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants, using effective insect repellent and checking themselves thoroughly for ticks after being outdoors.

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West Nile

This week also brought news of the first positive West Nile virus findings in Pennsylvania this year — two mosquitoes in Beaver and Delaware counties.

Last year brought the most cases of the mosquito-spread virus in Pennsylvania residents in more than a decade, with at least five deaths attributed to it, including two people in Lancaster County.

The virus is spread by infected mosquitoes that pass the virus on to birds, animals and people. Humans can contract West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in an inflammation of the brain and sometimes results in death.

Experts encourage mosquito-preventive measures including long clothing, repellent and eliminating even small amounts of standing water.


Zika

The mosquito-borne Zika virus, which burst onto headlines in 2016 because of a link to serious birth defects, hasn’t made much noise lately.

The CDC said there are no reports of the virus spreading by mosquitoes in the continental United States in the last year and a half, and no countries are currently reporting Zika outbreaks.

However, for those considering travel outside the continental U.S., the agency notes that it does not have accurate information on the current level of risk for some areas where Zika transmission was previously recorded.

It advises strictly following steps to minimize exposure to and prevent mosquito bites, and urges couples trying to become pregnant within the next three months to work with their health care providers to carefully consider the risks and possible consequences of traveling to areas with Zika.

More information is available at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

From The New York Times: The Zika Virus Is Still a Threat. Here’s What Experts Know.


Confirmed & suspected Lyme disease totals

YearLancaster CountyPennsylvania
201830910208
201756411900
201645611443
20155169427
20141537487
2013105904
2012135033
2011135362
201093805
2009145722
2008673991
20072533994
20061523242
20052504287
20041403985
20032034722
20021583964
20011772727
2000342315
1999602814
1998692752
1997372117
1996512589
1995291630
1994231612
1993131030
199217993
199110995
199011685

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health