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Five Fast Facts: Lyme Disease in Pennsylvania

May 13, 2022

As we head into the summer months, Pennsylvanians should plan ahead and take precautions to avoid tick bites when outdoors.

Pennsylvania is in the top five states for Lyme disease, according to the most recent CDC surveillance data. The state’s 2019 incidence for Lyme disease was 52.8 per 100,000 people, putting the state behind only Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Delaware.

The commonwealth’s climate and outdoor recreation opportunities make tickborne illnesses a significant health concern. Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Environmental Protection warned about the presence of Lyme disease and the ‘rare but dangerous’ Deer Tick Virus that has been spotted at high levels in ticks in parts of Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health notes:

  • Total count:  Estimates vary, but about 100,000 people get Lyme disease annually in Pennsylvania. Every county in the state has a higher incidence than the national average.
  • More than one:  Deer ticks can transmit multiple diseases with a single bite, and the symptoms for babesiosis, Lyme disease, and anaplasmosis appear on different timelines.
  • By the numbers:  About 1 in 4 nymphs and 1 in 2 adult ticks are infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
  • Peak season:  Lyme disease can be transmitted by adult deer ticks at any time of the year, but the risks are highest during June and July.
  • Explosive growth:  Since 1982, annual reported cases of Lyme disease have increased about 25-fold in the U.S.

As we head outdoors during the summer months, public health officials are urging everyone to take precautions to avoid tick bites. You can stay safe by:

  • Applying tick repellents to exposed skin before going outdoors
  • Wearing light-colored outer clothing and tucking shirts into pants, and pants into socks
  • Walking in the centers of trails, and avoiding wooded and brushy areas
  • After returning home, removing all clothing, taking a shower, and placing clothing into the dryer on high heat to kill any lingering ticks
  • Conducting a full-body tick check using a hand or full-length mirror
  • Checking pets
  • Using tweezers to remove ticks carefully, including the head. Contact your health care provider with any questions or if symptoms arise

During National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community encourage everyone to take these precautions to prevent tick bites and tickborne diseases.

Additional educational materials for patients and health care providers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health are available online. Materials are available in Spanish.