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Pennsylvania DOH Warns of Increase in Tick-Borne Illnesses

Summer months pose largest threat as clinicians monitor increase in cases

July 30, 2021

The Pennsylvania Department of Health provided a reminder this week to all Pennsylvanians to be mindful of the threat of tick-borne diseases, noting an increase in cases this summer.

“As Pennsylvanians continue to spend more time outdoors, we are urging everyone to take steps to prevent tick bites, such as wearing insect repellent, putting permethrin on their shoes, gear and clothing, and doing frequent tick checks,” said Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania’s acting physician general, in a statement.

This year, clinicians are reporting more cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, such as anaplasmosis, state officials said. The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has collected two times as many Blacklegged tick nymphs compared to last year, as well.

“The increase in nymphs really drives home the message that we all need to adhere to the necessary precautions to stay safe from ticks,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a statement.

The Wolf Administration recommends the following tips to reduce the chances of being bitten by ticks:

  • Cover exposed skin with lightweight and light-colored clothing 
  • Avoid tick-infested habitats (dense areas with shrubbery or tall grass) 
  • Use an insect repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Once inside, immediately check yourself, children, and pets
  • Take a shower immediately to remove ticks that may be crawling on skin  
  • If possible, place clothing and gear in a dryer to kill any ticks 

Blacklegged (deer) ticks, are the most common carrier of Lyme disease, Powassan virus, and other tick-borne illnesses. They thrive in tall grass, brush, and wooded areas, and can be found in every county in the commonwealth.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches. A bullseye-like rash also is common but may not be present in every case. Transmission for Lyme disease from tick to human takes about a day or more. If you have symptoms that are consistent with a tick-borne disease, speak to your health care provider immediately.

HAP joins the Pennsylvania Department of Health to raise awareness about this important issue and to urge Pennsylvanians to take precautions against tick-borne illnesses this summer.

Additional information about Lyme diseaseanaplasmosis, and Powassan virus is available online.