Friday, April 17, 2009

NEW HAMPSHIRE NEWS: Lyme Disease Cases Rise 80%

Areas of the Seacoast continue to have the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the state, recent data shows, and health officials are warning people to use caution as the warm weather starts to draw out ticks.

There were 1,590 reported cases of Lyme disease statewide in 2008 — an 80 percent increase from 2007 and a 600 percent increase from 2004, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The highest number of cases was in Rockingham County, with 653 reported in 2008 — a 70 percent increase over the previous year. Hillsborough County and Strafford County had the second- and third-highest concentration of cases, respectively.

Across the border in Maine, southern York County has had the highest concentration of Lyme disease cases in the state in the last few years, said state Epidemiologist Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer.

A recent change to the government's definition of Lyme disease, making it more inclusive, is partly responsible for the increases, according to New Hampshire Public Health Director Jose Montero.

Suburban sprawl and people spending more time outdoors could also be factors, he said.

Gensheimer added that increased deer populations may also be responsible seeing how ticks feed off deer along with mice, birds, opossums, raccoons, dogs, cats, livestock and humans.

A New Hampshire DHHS survey last year found more than half the ticks in Rockingham and Strafford counties had Lyme disease. Results of a similar study will be released in the coming weeks, Montero said.

"We want people to know this disease can be serious, but can be preventable by avoiding being bitten," he said.

The greatest risk for Lyme disease is between May and August, when the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick, is in the juvenile stage. The insect is the size of a poppy seed and very difficult to detect. Individuals are often unaware they have been bitten.

Source: Fosters Daily

No comments: