Number of Lyme disease cases on the rise

Deer ticks
Deer ticks, often no bigger than the tip of a pencil, are the main carriers of Lyme disease to humans.
Photo courtesy of the Lyme Disease Foundation

The Department of Health said 2007 saw more than 1,200 cases of Lyme disease, the most common tick-related illness. Normally the number of Lyme disease cases is between 900 and 1,000.

Epidemiologist Melissa Kemperman said there could be a number of reasons behind the increase in the three diseases spread by the deer tick.

"Ticks expanding into new areas which we have documented. Another reason could be people doing more activities in woody or brushy areas, or there could be differences in doctors suspecting and diagnosing the diseases," Kemperman said.

Lyme disease causes joint pain and inflammation, and can damage the heart and nervous system if left untreated.

Kemperman reminds people to use insect repellent when going out in the woods. It's also a good idea to wear light-colored clothing to make the ticks more visible, and tuck pant legs into boots or socks when walking through brushy areas.

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