Pennsylvania Leads the Nation in Confirmed Cases of Lyme Disease - Physicians Urge Caution

June 9, 2017

Now that warmer weather has arrived, many people are spending more time outdoors. While these warmer days are inviting, they pose a higher risk of being bitten by an infected tick.

Lyme disease cases are on the rise in Pennsylvania according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In fact, Pennsylvania leads the nation in confirmed cases of Lyme disease.  Deer ticks have been found in all of Pennsylvanian’s 67 counties.

Lyme disease is not the only nasty disease ticks can carry. Dr. Matthew Dvorchak, a primary care physician in the Northern Cambria region of Cambria County, says he has treated patients for other diseases carried by ticks.

“I have seen patients with Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis, which can have similar symptoms to Lyme disease and can be equally challenging to diagnosis and devastating for patients,” says Dr. Dvorchak. 

Symptoms that patients need to watch for are similar to those for Lyme disease and may include fever, low blood pressure, body aches, nausea and fatigue. Sometimes, but not always, a bullseye rash accompanies these symptoms.

People with any of these symptoms should follow-up with their physician.  Those with other chronic conditions need to be particularly careful. “Lyme disease and other diseases carried by deer ticks can knock down even the healthiest people,” says Dr. Dvorchak. “Those with chronic conditions like diabetes, issues to their immune system, anyone without a spleen and those undergoing cancer therapy or steroid therapy need to be very careful.”

How to Protect Yourself

Dr. Dvorchak encourages his patients to spray their clothes and any exposed skin. He suggests taking a shower when you come in from being outdoors and checking yourself for ticks. He also recommends talking to area pet owners or veterinarians about Lyme disease cases in pets. “If pets in your area are diagnosed with Lyme disease than you have infected deer ticks in your area, you need to take precautions,” says Dr. Dvorchak. 

How to Remove a Tick

Dr. Dvorchak says he encourages patients to use a water-based lubricant, KY Jelly not Vaseline, on a cotton swab. “When you place this on the tick, it causes the tick to back out of the skin because it cannot breathe. You don’t want to kill them.  You want them to back out so that no part of the tick is left behind,” says Dr. Dvorchak. “You definitely do not want to squeeze them because this acts like a needle squirting disease carrying fluid into the skin.”   After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the area and your hands with soap and water.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend removing a tick with fine tipped tweezers, pulling upward with steady, even pressure. The CDC recommends disposing of live ticks by submersing them in alcohol, wrapping them in a sealed bag or flushing them down the toilet. Do not crush the tick with your fingers.