Pennsylvania has the unfortunate distinction of being the state with the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the country, with 12,200 cases of Lyme disease reported in 2016 (the most recent statistics to date).
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection most people get from the bite of a deer tick. If left untreated, the disease can cause serious physical and neurological problems that are hard to manage down the road.
If you are heading outdoors to go fishing, hunting, camping or enjoying other activities, I encourage you to take the proper precautions.
The best ways to prevent tick-borne illnesses are to avoid tick-infested habitats, use personal protective measures such as repellents and protective clothing, and frequently check for and remove attached ticks when in an infested habitat.
Although tick habitat is primarily wooded areas and grassy fields, ticks have also been found in residential backyards.
To help keep ticks away from your property, homeowners should reduce tick habitats by clearing underbrush and trees, reducing mouse populations, spraying the perimeter of their property with Permethrin sprays, keeping grass short, and using a 3-foot perimeter of wood chip edging between your lawn and any wooded areas.
Once Lyme disease is contracted, it can infect several different parts of the body making diagnosis difficult.
Symptoms often vary from person to person. However, some typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic circular skin rash called Erythema migrans.
Early diagnosis is important in fighting Lyme disease. Most cases of the disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started early enough.
However, left untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, resulting in increasingly serious complications and requiring intensive therapy.
To help combat the disease, the Pennsylvania Legislature created a task force to study Lyme disease and provide recommendations for public education, surveillance, and prevention of the disease.
Also, the state House passed legislation to ensure coverage of available and emerging diagnostic and treatment options for Lyme and related tick-borne diseases.
This legislation, of which I am a co-sponsor, is currently in the state Senate awaiting consideration. I am hopeful we can move this bill forward in the legislative process in the near future, so we can further help those individuals coping with the disease.
I encourage everyone to be safe from early spring to late fall, when ticks are most active, and take the proper precautions and educate yourselves before heading out into tick habitat. For more information on Lyme disease, visit my website at RepMackenzie.com.
Editor’s note: State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie represents the 134th Legislative District which includes: Alburtis, Lower Macungie Township, Macungie, Salisbury Township (Wards 4 and 5) and South Whitehall (Districts 3 and 4) in Lehigh County; and Hereford, Longswamp, Richmond and Rockland townships, and Topton borough in Berks County.