Zika Cases Could Heat Up This Summer in Philly

Philadelphia is a city under in high risk of developing a Zika outbreak this summer.

Philly does not have the Aedes aegypti mosquito, so all 50 or so cases the city saw last year came from people who contracted the virus during a visit to an infected country. Which is very concerning because this means it is people traveling that are transmitting this disease.

“The way we could get a Zika outbreak here,” said Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn, “is through our airport.”

The airports in Philadelphia must be inspected carefully, as they have already been proven to spread Zika.

“About 80 percent of people who contract Zika show no symptoms, but they can still pass on the virus.” For this reason, the city of Philadelphia, and all cities should worry about travelers spreading this disease, as they are typically unaware they even have Zika themselves.

To avoid mosquitoes, it is highly suggested to get rid of any standing water, as this is where they breed. Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn, gave reason to concern in her quote, “I pass West Philly and see tires on the side of the street,” “If I’m in that community I should tip those tires or they’re going to gather water. These mosquitoes can breed in a bottle cap.”

Another effective way to avoid mosquito bites altogether is applying an EPA registered insect repellent before going into areas where mosquitos can be found.

(Original Article: https://billypenn.com/2017/05/22/zika-in-philly-health-officials-say-more-cases-are-coming-this-summer/)

West Nile virus

Texas Reports Its First West Nile Case This Year

In late April of 2017, The West Nile illness was reported to be found in Texas by the Department of State Health Services.

Texas has been reaching out to its occupants to do all they can to reduce the number of cases where mosquito transmitted diseases are involved. Officials recommend stopping mosquitoes from reproducing and avoiding mosquito bites through a repellent.

An EPA insect repellent is what is being recommended to Texas citizens; as well as wearing long sleeves and pants to cover any exposed skin while one is outside. Not only does this help to prevent citizens in avoiding the West Nile illness, but it also prevents individuals from contracting the Zika virus as well.

“In 2016, Texas reported 370 human cases of West Nile illness, including 18 deaths. Most people who get infected don’t get sick, but about 20 percent will experience symptoms like headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. In about one percent of infections, the virus can affect the nervous system, causing neurological symptoms such as disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma and even death” (MyHighPlains).

These statistics support why it is necessary that people do all they can do to avoid contracting this illness, and other potentially hazardous illnesses.

“Starting May 1, Texas began providing this year’s statewide Medicaid benefit for mosquito repellent to prevent Zika virus transmission. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is offering the repellent to more Medicaid clients to ensure additional Texans are protected from the virus. For the first time in Texas, some boys and men will be eligible to receive the benefit, as well as women ages 45 to 55” (MyHighPlains).

While mosquito repellent is being offered, it is critical an EPA registered, safe, non-toxic product is used to not only repel mosquitoes, but repel many other insects to keep its user safe.

Insect repellents using the active ingredient IR 3535 will repel mosquitoes and many other insects, as well as keep its user safe; as it is non-toxic and non-flammable, unlike insect repellents that use other active ingredients such as Deet.

(Original Article: http://www.myhighplains.com/news/first-west-nile-case-highlights-precautions-for-mosquito-borne-diseases/714902851)

Could Yellow Fever Be Making a Comeback?

Yellow Fever, the disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the past centuries, has popped up again in Brazil, and is threatening to migrate to the rest of the world.

“So far, the Ministry of Health has confirmed 729 cases, with another 663 suspected and under investigation. It has reported 249 deaths. The outbreak has spread to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Suriname” (Gale).

These studies show how the outbreak of yellow fever has already started to kill in several countries, and it is not poised to stop anytime soon. DDT was used in centuries past to kill off the mosquitoes carrying yellow fever, however DDT is extremely dangerous to humans as it is classified as a possible human carcinogen, and was banned by the United States in the 1970s.

The world should worry about this issue because yellow fever can spread anywhere. If someone has gone to an area with these yellow fever carrying mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti mosquitoes) and gets bit they are able to spread the disease wherever they go.

To avoid this issue altogether, people must start from the beginning of the process and eliminate the chance of getting bit by an infected mosquito. Insect repellents are very useful for this prevention, and some don’t even have to kill the insects.

Look for the ingredient IR 3535 on the label of an insect repellent, rather than Deet; which kills the mosquitos and is also harmful to the human body.

(Original article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-11/why-yellow-fever-is-poised-for-a-comeback-quicktake-q-a)

Maryland remains concerned about Zika virus

The concerns over the mosquito-borne Zika virus diminished over the winter.

But the Maryland Department of Health said there have already been six cases of the virus reported this year in Maryland.

Health officials said the incidents are a good reminder to take precautions when traveling to affected areas.

“Maryland has a number of mosquito-borne viruses, so we’re very worried about Zika virus being introduced here from a returning traveler,” Dr. Katherine Feldman, chief of Maryland’s Center for Zoonotic and Vectorborne Diseases, said.

Feldman said last year there were 174 cases of Zika virus reported in Maryland.

“But it’s really important to understand that all of those individuals traveled to areas where zika is being actively transmitted,” Feldman said.

Health officials stressed that there was no mosquito transmission of zika in Maryland last year, and the health department wants to keep it that way in 2017.

The health department released a public service announcement this year with tips to prevent mosquitoes and information about how Zika virus is spread.

Zika is not spread through casual contact but is sexually transmitted, so the health department said there are precautions you need to take if you’re planning on having a family.

Feldman says women should talk to their doctors about the wait time to conceive after traveling to an infected area.

“Zika can cause devastating consequences to developing fetuses, so pregnant woman are advised not to travel at all to areas where there is active Zika transmission,” Feldman said.

Feldman said that anyone traveling to nations where there has been a Zika virus outbreak should take aggressive measures to guard against mosquito bites.

(Original article: http://www.wbaltv.com/article/5-year-old-with-new-heart-off-life-support-family-says/9219757)

Health officials brace for return of Zika

Florida officials and federal public health experts are keeping a careful eye on the mosquito population in Miami ahead of what they fear will be a breakout year for Zika, a virus that has already infected more than 5,100 people in the United States.

The Sunshine State is ground zero for transmissions of the mosquito-borne virus that happen on American soil. While the vast majority of people infected with Zika caught it while traveling abroad, all but six of the 222 confirmed cases acquired within the United States have been in Florida. The other six cases were acquired around Brownsville, Texas.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) visited Miami-Dade County officials on Monday to evaluate preparations in the weeks and months leading up to Florida’s balmy rainy season, when mosquito populations boom. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, has an incident manager coordinating the federal response from the agency’s Atlanta headquarters.

The Zika virus first made landfall in the United States last year in the Miami-Dade area, where infections were traced to four neighborhoods in Hialeah and Miami Beach. Local, state and federal officials sent hundreds of people to the city to monitor and contain the mosquito-borne virus, which died down as the winter months took hold.“We learned a lot last year. The Florida experience in particular was very helpful in learning how to deal with local transmission,” said Denise Jamieson, chief of the CDC’s Women’s Health and Fertility Branch and the official in charge of the CDC’s Zika response. “We learned a lot about how to designate and communicate about areas of risk.”

Preparations for this year’s mosquito season have involved a dramatic expansion of the Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management Department. Gayle Love, a senior division director at the department, said her agency is in the process of hiring 42 new employees, including a medical entomologist.

“After we responded to the Zika challenge, we just kept going,” Love said in an interview. “After last year, we saw the level of intensity that was required for our response.”

The department last year hired 200 temporary employees and contractors to spray chemicals meant to kill mosquitoes around the Miami-Dade area. This year, they will hire more contractors, and the agency is already monitoring 130 traps set up throughout the county. If those contractors find any more than 10 female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a trap, they will spray the area to contain the population.

“Mosquito season has peak activity in summer and rainy months,” Love said. But now, she added: “We consider it a year-round problem.”

Public health officials say they expect Zika to spread more broadly in Florida this year, where only a small number of cases occurred last year. There are likely to be fewer cases in Puerto Rico after the island was hit hard last year, when more than 38,000 people were infected. Once someone contracts the Zika virus, they are immune from contracting it again.

“We expect fewer cases in places like Puerto Rico because a proportion of the population was infected and is less susceptible,” Jamieson said.

Miami officials said fighting the Zika outbreak had already cost the county more than $23 million. The state of Florida has reimbursed the county for $18 million in costs. The Florida Department of Health said last week it had tested more than 13,000 people for the Zika virus throughout the state.

State legislators added $2.6 million in funding for mosquito control programs around Florida. Those programs are seeking another $3.8 million in state funding. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have introduced federal legislation to give small businesses access to federal disaster relief money if they are impacted by Zika’s spread. The bill would also fund a Department of Health and Human Services program to respond to public health emergencies.

The CDC and Florida officials say they will work to let pregnant women know of any Zika hotspots that pop up, like the four that emerged last year. And CDC is working to speed laboratory testing times, while adding capacity to registries that track those already infected by the virus. Those registries are mostly populated by people infected abroad.

So far this year, Miami-Dade officials have identified 29 new Zika cases. Officials said only two of those cases were contracted through local transmission in Florida, both of whom were likely infected last year.

(Original article: http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/326757-health-officials-brace-for-return-of-zika)

Reduce your risk of skin cancer

May is National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month and the perfect time to raise awareness about this deadly disease.

Here are some skin cancer prevention tips from Mayo Clinic:

Wear sunscreen year-round. Sunscreens don’t filter out all harmful UV radiation, especially the radiation that can lead to melanoma. But they play a major role in an overall sun protection program.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

Avoid the sun during the middle of the day. For many people in North America, the sun’s rays are strongest between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even in winter or when the sky is cloudy.

You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays. Avoiding the sun at its strongest helps you avoid the sunburns and suntans that cause skin damage and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure accumulated over time also may cause skin cancer.

Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don’t provide complete protection from UV rays. So cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does. Some companies also sell photoprotective clothing. A dermatologist can recommend an appropriate brand. Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays.

Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Become familiar with your skin so you’ll notice changes. Examine your skin regularly for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks.

 

(Original article: http://www.kvia.com/news/reduce-your-risk-of-skin-cancer/411311124)

Moles and skin cancer – everything you need to know

Almost all of us have them, yet most of us have no idea how to tell if there might be something wrong with them.

But you see moles have a habit of letting us know when there’s a problem – be it a change in colour or size – and knowing to look out for these changes could save your life.

Almost 500 people in Greater Manchester are diagnosed with melanoma, a serious and aggressive form of skin cancer, each year.

Of those, around a fifth of them die.

While most moles are benign (non-cancerous), in rare cases they can develop into melanoma and changes to a mole can be an early indication of this.

That’s why Cancer Research UK say it is crucial people get to know their skin, and because of this we came up with everything you need to know about what to look out for.

What is a mole?

According to the NHS, moles are small coloured spots on the skin made up of cells called melanocytes, which produce the colour (pigment) in your skin.

The scientific name for moles is melanocytic naevi.

What colour should my mole be? What if it changes colour?

Moles are often a brownish colour, although some may be darker or skin-coloured. They can be flat or raised, smooth or rough, and some have hair growing from them.

They often change in number and appearance – some fade away over time, often without you realising. They also sometimes respond to hormonal changes, for example during pregnancy they can go slightly darker.

This photo below shows a very dark mole.

While it’s what’s normal for you that counts, darkening is one possible sign that a mole is becoming cancerous and could be a melanoma, so if you see this happening you should show your doctor immediately.

Should it be round?

Moles are usually circular or oval with a smooth edge.

Again it’s what’s normal for you that counts but you should see your doctor if you notice a mole is changing shape, or if it has an uneven or ragged edge.

The chances are it won’t be anything to worry about, but if it is, getting treatment started before it has time to spread to other parts of the body can make a big difference.

The image below shows the irregular outline of a melanoma.

What if it bleeds or becomes enflamed?

If you notice any unusual changes to your skin, such as a mole or growth that bleeds, oozes, crusts or scabs, it’s important to get it checked out.

Sometimes moles can catch on things, such as jewellery, and become uncomfortable, and people may choose to have them removed because of this, but it can cost.

Surgeons also carry out procedures known as ‘shave excisions’, where they shave the mole off so that it is level with your skin.

The wound may then be closed with heat during a process called cauterisation.

This photo shows a mole that has an area of inflammation around it. The inflamed area is about 7 millimetres at its widest but you can see that the original mole is much smaller than that.

Inflammation is another sign that a mole may be developing into a melanoma and needs to be checked out by a doctor.

What does it mean if it doesn’t look right?

It’s important that you get to know what your skin normally looks like, so you’re more likely to notice anything that’s unusual for you – whether it’s a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin, a new mole, or a mole that doesn’t look like the others.

Most moles only have one or two colours, but melanomas have lots of different shades so if you spot uneven colouring this could be a sign and should visit a doctor.

The picture below is of a melanoma that is spreading out from a normal mole.

Jessica Turner is a senior cancer awareness nurse in the North West and runs the Cancer Awareness Roadshow.

She said: “Moles are a collection of cells called melanocytes, the cells that give skin its colour. Most moles remain harmless, but occasionally the cells can change and become melanoma skin cancer.

“There are a number of things that doctors will look for to help them decide whether a mole has become cancerous. These include a change in size, shape or colour.

“But when it comes to skin cancer, moles aren’t the only thing to look out for. Also, show your doctor if you notice a growth or sore that doesn’t heal, itches, oozes or scabs.

“Get to know what your skin normally looks like, so you’re more likely to notice anything that’s unusual for you – whether it’s a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin, a new mole, or a mole that doesn’t look like the others, it’s important to show your doctor.

“If you do notice anything unusual for you, it probably won’t be skin cancer, but if it is, getting treatment started before it has time to spread to other parts of the body can make a big difference.”

The Cancer Awareness Roadshow is run in partnership with the Marie Keating Foundation, which was set up by singer Ronan Keating and his family in memory of their mum Marie who died from breast cancer. The roadshow tours part of Greater Manchester and the North West from April until November offering sun safety information as well as information on leading a healthy life and spotting cancer early.

 

(Original article: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/moles-skin-cancer-everything-you-12829549)

Lyme disease preventable by taking steps to avoid tick bites

Pest control experts who began seeing ticks in early February because of a warm winter and an abundance of acorns now say this will be one of the worst tick seasons in years – which may lead to an increase in Lyme disease.

While that may be true, health experts point out that in Massachusetts and other parts of the Northeast, where Lyme disease is endemic, every year is a bad tick season. Their advice is to not focus on how many ticks there might be this year, but instead, become educated on how to prevent tick bites.

Dr. Catherine M. Brown, deputy state epidemiologist and state public health veterinarian with the state Department of Public Health, said she’s not sure if the prediction is helpful because there are always thousands of cases of Lyme every year.

“We’re considered endemic for Lyme, which means we have it all over the Commonwealth, and we have it all the time,” she said. “I want people to be aware and to take steps to prevent tick bites, not just in the year when people say it might be bad.”

Chris G. Ford, president of Ford’s Hometown Services on Grove Street in Worcester, said he and other pest control folks learned of the hearty rodent population at the Central Massachusetts Pest Control Association’s seminar in Sturbridge last month.

Some small animals, particularly the white-footed mouse, carry the bacteria that causes Lyme. When a tick, usually in the nymph stage, attaches to the carrier for a blood meal, it becomes infected and passes the infection on to humans and other animals.

Mr. Ford said the number of phone calls from people signing up for the company’s four-application tick protection program spiked during the warm spell in February when people began seeing ticks. April through September is when the greatest risk of being bitten exists. But, adult ticks are out in search of a host in winter when temperatures climb above freezing.

“We’ve had multiple calls coming in already regarding people’s pets and children getting ticks on them,” he said. Mr. Ford, who is also president of Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals, said mosquito and tick control has grown to be the largest segment of the 75-year-old family company.

Massachusetts ranked fourth in the nation (behind Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York) in the incidence of Lyme cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, the last year for which the data is available. Ninety-five percent of the confirmed cases of were reported in 14 states – including all of New England – where the black-legged tick is found. There were 2,922 confirmed cases and 1,302 probable cases in Massachusetts in 2015.

But, as the CDC first announced at an international conference in Boston in 2013, Dr. Brown said the actual number of cases each year is likely 10-fold what is reported.

The 4,000 to 6,000 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme reported each year in Massachusetts are the only ones where there is enough information to assign them based on the current surveillance system, Dr. Brown said. As a result of the limitations, the department is developing a new system of counting Lyme cases which should be available before the end of the year.

“There are 14,000 to 16,000 positive lab results, and yet we don’t often have enough clinical information to count these people based on the (current system),” she explained.

Other states are also using different methods, which makes it impossible to compare states. Dr. Brown said some counties in New York had so many Lyme cases that they are following up on and reporting only a sampling of cases. According to the CDC, New York had a total of 4,314 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme in 2015.

“All of this speaks to why we’re looking at the old way and thinking it is not really accurate and appropriate,” she said. “We’re looking at trying to use other data sources and evaluate the data we have more creatively to provide a better assessment of the true risk and burden that Lyme disease places on Massachusetts residents, as well as the health care system.”

More Lyme disease than mosquito-borne diseases

Lyme disease is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the country. It affects many more people than Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus combined. Dr. Brown, with the DPH, said the state, like some in other parts of the country, has considered a program to spray for ticks, similar to the current mosquito control program. She said one of the reasons that has not been established is because of a CDC study involving four other high Lyme incidence states that didn’t show to fix the problem. The study looked at pairs of neighborhoods: one sprayed yards with insecticide; the other sprayed water. She said the properties that used insecticide did end up having fewer ticks. But the number of Lyme cases were the same for both pairs of neighborhoods.

“People don’t get exposed to infected ticks only in their yard,” Dr. Brown said. “The other factor that could be involved is, if you know your yard has been sprayed for ticks, maybe you are not as concerned about using repellent and doing tick checks.”

Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose. If not treated early, it can spread to many organs and systems in the body, including the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, the eyes, the liver and muscles, and joints.

Treatment is controversial. There are two schools of thought. The Infectious Disease Society of America has expressed concern about over-treatment of antibiotics and recommends limited treatment options, usually up to four weeks. The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society recommends treatment determined by clinical judgment. In some cases, that means long-term treatment with antibiotics.

Most health insurance companies only paid for the limited treatment until last year, after a years-long battle by Lyme victims and other advocates led to the Legislature enacting a law requiring private health insurers to cover the cost of long-term treatment for the disease.

Trish McCleary, a longtime Lyme victim and co-founder of Sturbridge Lyme Awareness of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Lyme Coalition, who helped get the law passed, estimates that she had paid more than $100,000 for treatment of the disease. But, the law is not perfect, she said. The law does not cover hundreds of thousands of people on MassHealth, as well as state and some municipal employees, their families and retirees who are covered by insurance administered by the Group Insurance Commission.

State Rep. David P. Linsky, D-Natick, sponsor of the legislation, said not including those people was not his first choice, but a compromise to get the bill passed. He said it was a budgetary decision because taxpayers pay 50 percent of MassHealth costs and all the cost for government workers’ insurance administered by the Group Insurance Commission.

“It’s fair to say that healthcare insurance throughout the country is in a gigantic state of influx right now,” Rep. Linsky said. “As much as I would like to see expanded coverage for Lyme, anything Massachusetts does has to be in accordance with federal law and we simply don’t know right now.”

Lisa M. Faust, 53, of Charlton, said the law is having a “life-saving” effect for her.

Prior to passage of the law, she was paying more than $3,000 a month out of pocket for Bicillin, an intramuscular injectable antibiotic, she needs to fight Lyme disease that she likely contracted in 2013.

After the law passed, Mrs. Faust said she had to “fight tooth and nail” for several weeks, and get state Sen. Anne Gobi involved, before Harvard Pilgrim complied with the new law. She now only pays a monthly co-pay of $250. The lower cost allows her to take the medication once a day as prescribed, as opposed to every other day.

“Being able to stay on this medication has changed my life in a very dramatically positive way. I haven’t had a fever in months. I have more energy,” she said. “I really feel I’ll be off (the antibiotic) by summer. I’m so happy that law passed. It’s really life changing.”

Prevention is the best medicine

Many health experts throughout the country stress that the most important tool available to prevent getting the devastating disease is to take proven steps to prevent tick bites.

Dr. Sam R. Telford, III, an expert on tick-borne diseases and a professor in the department of infectious diseases and global health at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, said measures to significantly reduce the number of deer will also greatly reduce Lyme cases. Deer is the primary host for the adult tick to feed, and lay thousands of eggs. He also pointed out that tremendous strides were made in reducing exposure to Lyme a few years ago, because of a CDC grant that paid the salary of a person to educate residents on Cape Cod about reducing their risk to Lyme and other tick-borne infections. The work stopped when the grant ran out, he said.

“Education is really the only way we’re going to get a handle on this,” he said. “We can wait and wait for a vaccine.”

There is a vaccine for dogs, but there is no longer one for humans. The only human vaccine against Lyme disease, called LYMERix, was licensed in 1998, and taken off the market in 2002 because there was not enough demand for it, and some reported side effects.

Scientists affiliated with University of Massachusetts Medical School are currently developing a medicine that could prevent people from getting the disease.

Dr. Mark S. Klemper, professor of medicine at UMass Medical School and executive vice chancellor of the school’s MassBiologics, where Lyme pre-exposure prophylaxis or Lyme PrEP was developed, said excellent progress has been made.

He said that unlike a vaccine which causes the body’s immune system to make a lot of antibodies, this medicine is a single human antibody that prevents infection from tick bites. Once the scientists have confirmed that the antibody provides protection for at least six months, clinical trials in people will begin.

Dr. Nancy A. Shadick, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is convinced that education is key in reducing the state’s Lyme epidemic. She conducted a study called A School-Based Intervention to Increase Lyme Disease Preventive Measures Among Elementary School-Aged Children, that involved 3,570 students in nine school districts in Essex County, on the North Shore, which is highly endemic for Lyme disease. There is a higher incidence of the disease in children ages 5 to 9, because they are less likely to find the tick and have it removed in time to prevent transmission. According to the CDC, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.The study taught about half of the children about the disease and preventive behaviors that decrease their chances of getting sick. The remaining elementary school students in the study did not get that education.

Dr. Shadick, in an email Thursday, said she would recommend that a similar program be expanded to all public elementary schools in the state.

“The children increased their knowledge of Lyme disease and reported that they took more tick bite precautions,” she said. “They had an improved attitude toward taking precautions and had more self-confidence that they could find a tick on themselves compared with the control group of children who did not get the in-school curriculum.”

The Massachusetts Health Officers Association (MHOA) is working to develop a toolkit for municipal health departments to use to educate communities about Lyme and precautions for people to take. Sam Wong, public health director in Hudson who is MHOA’s vice president, said while Lyme is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in Massachusetts, there are others, including Babesiosis and Powassan virus, that we are beginning to see.

“We’re seeing the number of cases trending up over the years. With the climate change, we expect to see those numbers going even higher,” he said. “Local health departments and the state health department can do a lot on educating the public on these issues.”

 

(Original article: http://www.telegram.com/news/20170325/lyme-disease-preventable-by-taking-steps-to-avoid-tick-bites)

Lyme disease continues to spread this season

Working in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh earlier this month, some very worried parents had brought in their a 6-year-old son—where they had removed a tick from his left groin 10 days ago was a red rash with a clearing center. We all knew that he had contracted Lyme disease. But I thought to myself, why am I seeing Lyme disease? This was Pittsburgh not Philadelphia, and it was still winter.

Lyme disease used to be rare west of the Alleghenies and usually seen in the summer. But the area where Lyme disease is prominent has spread and it has been extraordinarily warm winter in most of the eastern United States

Fifteen years ago Lyme disease was primarily seen in the United States intercoastal patch from Southern Maine to northern Virginia just outside Washington DC and in western Wisconsin. Now the entire area of the Atlantic Coast from central Maine through Virginia and going as far west as the Great Lakes, all of Wisconsin, and parts of Illinois and Minnesota have large amounts of Lyme disease. The animal vector that directly transmits the bacterial infection to humans is the black or deer tick, but the tick becomes infected from warm blooded animals such as mice and deer. This can spread the ticks over a wider area.

The animals that carry Lyme disease have increased because more rodents thrive due to the the decreased numbers of killing frosts during our winters. The decrease in hunting has not culled the deer herds the way it used to as well. Felicia Keesing, an ecologist from Bard College, said in an interview with National Public Radio that 2017 will be a banner year for Lyme disease because the mild weather has markedly increased rodents especially field mice, highly efficient transmitters of Lyme, and this in turn has increased ticks. A field mouse can have up to 50 ticks living on its ears and face at one time.

Working in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh earlier this month, some very worried parents had brought in their a 6-year-old son—where they had removed a tick from his left groin 10 days ago was a red rash with a clearing center. We all knew that he had contracted Lyme disease. But I thought to myself, why am I seeing Lyme disease? This was Pittsburgh not Philadelphia, and it was still winter.

Lyme disease used to be rare west of the Alleghenies and usually seen in the summer. But the area where Lyme disease is prominent has spread and it has been extraordinarily warm winter in most of the eastern United States

Fifteen years ago Lyme disease was primarily seen in the United States intercoastal patch from Southern Maine to northern Virginia just outside Washington DC and in western Wisconsin. Now the entire area of the Atlantic Coast from central Maine through Virginia and going as far west as the Great Lakes, all of Wisconsin, and parts of Illinois and Minnesota have large amounts of Lyme disease. The animal vector that directly transmits the bacterial infection to humans is the black or deer tick, but the tick becomes infected from warm blooded animals such as mice and deer. This can spread the ticks over a wider area.

The animals that carry Lyme disease have increased because more rodents thrive due to the the decreased numbers of killing frosts during our winters. The decrease in hunting has not culled the deer herds the way it used to as well. Felicia Keesing, an ecologist from Bard College, said in an interview with National Public Radio that 2017 will be a banner year for Lyme disease because the mild weather has markedly increased rodents especially field mice, highly efficient transmitters of Lyme, and this in turn has increased ticks. A field mouse can have up to 50 ticks living on its ears and face at one time.

Where we build homes has also increased our chances of getting Lyme disease. Before the Europeans came, the entire Northeast was one continuous forest full of predators like foxes that ate mice. But the forest now is in patches too small to support animals that keep rodent numbers in check. People love to live in a Sylvan setting where their houses are surrounded by tall trees. However, the incidence of Lyme disease infected ticks is so high in the Northeast that you don’t have to live in the forest to get Lyme disease. I live in Center City Philadelphia and two of my children when they were young got Lyme disease near my house in the park along the Schuykill.

To protect against Lyme disease:

  • After walking in parkland or in wooded areas, take off clothes and check under the arms, in the groin, and on the back of the neck for ticks when you get home. They prefer these areas, but can be anywhere on the body.
  • Wear long sleeves and full length slacks outside, avoid walking in very high grasses
  • Check pets, especially dogs, when they come inside.

The most effective way of taking ticks off is to pull them upwards with steady pressure using tweezers. The quicker you take them off, the less likely they are to transmit disease.

Unfortunately, there is no good blood test for Lyme disease since most people in endemic areas such as Philadelphia already have developed positive blood titers from previous subclinical disease. (Titers are blood tests that check your immune status to vaccinations or diseases you may have received in the past. If you’re titers results are positive, it means that you have adequate immunity to a particular infectious disease.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend treating with antibiotics just for being bit by a tick, but in many who will develop disease, a characteristic rash erythema migrans as described in the boy above develops in one to 30 days after the bite and in the area of the bite.

If the child has the rash or clinical symptoms, they can be treated with 14 days of antibiotics.  Late manifestations of the disease include swollen large joints, weakness of the facial muscles and even very severe headache. So starting now, not this summer, look for ticks and follow the advice above. Lyme disease ticks are waiting for you and your family.

 

(Original article: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/Lyme-disease-continues-to-spread-this-season.html)

State sees unusually high numbers of ticks, Lyme disease

After one of the warmest winters on record, Connecticut residents will likely need to be on high alert for ticks this summer — state experts are seeing higher amounts of ticks than usual for this time of year.

Dr. Goudarz Molaei, who directs the state’s tick-testing program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s tick-testing laboratory in New Haven, said his lab received a staggering amount of ticks submitted for testing last month.

Molaei said he received more than 350 ticks in March, something that he said is unheard of. In March 2016, the lab received 32 ticks. It received 15 in in the same month in 2015 and two in 2014.

Ticks are brought in by people who have been bit to test whether the tick has Lyme disease or not, Molaei said.

He does not document total numbers that the state receives in Lyme disease cases but says the numbers he is seeing in his lab alone this year are on par with the usual numbers that one would see in June or July, at the peak of tick season.

“The infection rate of the ticks we are testing, however, is even more troubling,” Molaei said.

Of the more than 350 ticks the lab tested in March, 38 percent tested positive for Lyme disease. Typical Lyme disease rates hover around 28 to 32 percent, Molaei said.

In 2016, The Connecticut Agricultural Station reported 2,817 ticks identified, with 2,450 tested and 628 of those testing positive, at 29 percent.

On March 6, the lab received 65 ticks in one day and 50 percent of those ticks also tested positive for Lyme.

Molaei worries there will be high incident rates for Lyme this year, especially in New London and Windham counties, which are areas that typically see high incident rates.

“The prospect doesn’t look too great,” he said. “I’m concerned that our residents will be exposed to more and more tick bites which will mean that a good number of them would get Lyme disease.”

Dr. Michael Rajkumar, who deals with infectious disease in Connecticut, said he is expecting to see higher Lyme disease rates among patients coming into his practice.

The bigger concern, he said, is ticks are now spreading other disease-causing bacteria such as Babesia and Anaplasma, which can also cause similar symptoms of Lyme disease, and, in extreme cases, death.

In order to avoid any disease transmission, Rajkumar says residents need to be hyper-vigilant about preventing tick bites in the first place.

“People should make sure they use DEET if they spend time outdoors and always do a tick check,” Rajkumar said.

 

(Original article: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/news/20170401/state-sees-unusually-high-numbers-of-ticks-lyme-disease)