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Lyme disease is a growing problem

June 22, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

As we enter into the peak of the vacation season and outdoors activities are at the highest level of the summer, Lyme disease once again becomes an issue.

Reported cases of Lyme have been on a steady rise for many years now and Maryland is one of the states with a high level of growth.

By the way, Lyme disease is name for the town of Lyme, Conn., where the disease was first identified.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease, caused by the bite of an infected blacklegged or deer tick. A lot of people describe the symptoms as flu-like -- fever, headache and fatigue.

Many experts believe that the increase in reported cases of Lyme is directly related to the increasing deer population. As we know, deer are literally everywhere now, and the ticks have invaded suburban areas throughout the greater Washington, D.C., area. In the past few weeks, several of the metro television news stations have reported on the rise in Lyme cases and the steps that can be taken to avoid ticks.

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Locally, the number on the reported cases of Lyme disease is pretty compelling. Reported cases in Maryland, according to the Center for Disease Control, have risen from 688 in 2000 to 1,288 in 2006.

The 2007 data for Maryland is not available yet. On a national level, the rate of growth is not nearly as high, going from 17,730 in 2000 to 19,931 in 2006.

Prevention of Lyme disease is not easy, unless you are willing to stay indoors nearly all of the time. You do not have to travel to the outback to come in contact with ticks. In fact, many cases are reported from people and pets that seldomly leave the back yard.

Most literature recommends the use of insect repellents containing DEET. It is also recommended that you wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. A key is to check yourself and children thoroughly after being outdoors.

Lyme disease is just one of several tick-borne diseases that are common to our area. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is another, which may actually be worse. For more info on both diseases, a good Web site is www.cdc.gov




Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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