Several Lyme disease cases reported in Clark County

The number of Lyme disease cases has increased in Clark County this year, according to health officials.

There have been eight cases of the disease, which is spread through the black-legged tick, Clark County Combined Health District Environmental Health Director Larry Shaffer told the Springfield News-Sun.

Five of these cases were presumptive, with diagnosis made through the assessment of symptoms, and three cases were confirmed. Two of the confirmed cases of Lyme disease occurred with individuals who did not contract the disease outside of the county, Shaffer said.

The presence of the black-legged tick, also called the deer tick, was confirmed in Clark County and surrounding counties within the past year, Shaffer said. Cases of Lyme disease have been minimal in the county for years, with less than two cases monitored annually from people who contracted the disease out-of-county.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne (transmitted to humans through another species) disease in the nation, with Lyme disease making up 75% of the vector-borne diseases reported annually. Lyme disease can be spread to a person or animal if an infected tick attaches itself to that person or animal for roughly 48 hours or more.

Other species of ticks are not known to carry Lyme disease, but can carry other viruses or diseases.

If left untreated, Lyme disease -- a bacterial infection -- can spread to the nervous system and the heart of an infected person, according to Shaffer. In some cases, the disease has proven fatal.

The Centers for Disease Control report that common early symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash called “erythema migrans”; Shaffer said this is also called the bullseye rash, named for its appearance.

People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover quickly and completely, the CDC states.

Shaffer told the News-Sun that the prevention of tick attachment is key to protection against Lyme disease. People and pets are oftentimes susceptible to tick bites, especially if those people and pets are walking near tall grasses, where ticks reside. Shaffer said families should check themselves and their pets for ticks after spending time outdoors. He also recommended using tick-prevention products for pets.

Ticks do not reside in trees, Shaffer said: a common misconception, as many people who experience tick bites commonly report finding them on their heads or on their necks.

Another common misconception about ticks deals with their removal: Shaffer warned against old wives tales about using matches or nail polish to cause a tick to remove itself after attachment. The most efficient way to remove a tick is to use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible to remove it.

Shaffer said those removing ticks, however, should be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick: this would essentially inject the insides of the insect into the body. Removing attached ticks promptly and correctly can reduce the risk of transmission of a tick-borne disease, Shaffer said.

More details about tick removal can be found on the Clark County Combined Health District’s website. Shaffer noted that people who find ticks attached to them who are unsure of their species may contact the health district for assistance in identification and guidance on next steps.

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