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DHHR urges residents to take steps to prevent tick-borne diseases in light of drastic spike in Lyme disease

CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health urges residents to take preventive measures against tick-borne diseases. Tick-borne diseases are spread through the bite of an infected tick and many of these diseases can also infect pets.

According to the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services in DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease reported in West Virginia. Preliminary numbers indicate in 2021, there were 1,542 Lyme disease cases across the state with others still being investigated. In comparison, there were 1,062 confirmed Lyme disease cases in 2020. 

From 2015-2020, there were more than 3,939 Lyme disease cases reported across the state, representing a 271% increase. Historically limited to the Eastern Panhandle, Lyme disease has progressively become more common in northern, eastern, and central West Virginia.  In 2017, West Virginia was designated a high incidence Lyme disease state.

Anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have also been reported in West Virginia, with about 1-10 cases of each per year. Tick-borne infections can cause a variety of symptoms including fever, headache, chills, myalgia and rash. Most infections occur from late spring through early fall when ticks are most active.

“Tick exposure can happen any time of the year, but is most common during summer months,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, State Health Officer and Commissioner for DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “The most effective way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to use tick repellent when you are in wooded and brushy areas.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following tips when coming indoors: check your clothing for ticks, examine gear and pets, shower soon after being outdoors, and check your body for ticks.

When seeking medical assistance, it’s important to save any ticks that may have been involved with a bite which may help medical staff identify the tick. Medical treatments are effective in treating tick-borne diseases and can prevent severe complications when given early in the course of infection. 

For more information, visit https://oeps.wv.gov/arboviral/Pages/tbd.aspx

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