Health officials are sounding the alarm as cases of Lyme disease increase in regions of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and neighboring regions.
The disease is spread through the bite of its insect vector or carrier- the deer tick.
Lyme disease is at its peak between May and October. That is when deer ticks invade yards, underbrush and woods.
Accordingly, deer do not carry Lyme disease, but they can carry infected ticks. The bacterium that causes Lyme disease originates in certain small rodents, such as field mice and squirrels. Young ticks that feed on those infected rodents can pick up the bacterium and transmit it to humans, informs the Centers for Disease Control.
Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash, fever, and flu-like symptoms. If not treated in its early stages, Lyme disease can affect the heart, joints, and nervous system.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Pennsylvania has the third highest incidence of Lyme disease in the nation and the Philadelphia region is one of the worst in the state due to the presence of high concentrations of deer, which carry ticks onto properties.
Says Lou Giroud, President of Giroud Tree Service and ISA Certified Arborist: 'Deer ticks, which spread Lyme disease, usually live around the fringes of our property. They like the shade and seek protection from the sun in ground level vegetation such as high grasses, underbrush, shrubs and woods.' He adds that knowing where they thrive is the first step to getting rid of them.
There is no way to know if this year's tick season will be any worse than past years. That is something, which cannot be predicted, according to John C. Jahoda, a biology professor at Bridgewater State College. He adds that tick-borne illnesses continue to be a 'growing problem.'
'It is not a good situation,' he says. 'I fondly remember the days when I could go into the field with my students in this area and not have to worry about picking up deer ticks.'
The expansion of suburban neighborhoods means that more people are living in tick-dense areas, said Jahoda. According to him, the best thing to do is take precautions.
'This might include avoiding high tick areas, wearing light-colored clothing, tucking your pants into your socks, showering and washing well after being out of doors in tick - infested areas, checking your body carefully for ticks, and using tick repellents,' he says.