COUNTY—As hunting season draws closer, those taking to the woods this fall are encouraged to be mindful of ticks lingering in the brush.

According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there are over 300,000 new cases of Lyme Disease each year in the United States.

Of those new cases, Pennsylvania has had the highest number of incidences for the last four years with Wayne County having more new cases annually than all other counties in the commonwealth, stated Marcia Barrera, Chairperson for the Wayne County Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases.

Established by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, the task force aims to offer information and support for those living with Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

“Ticks are very active during the fall,” said Barrera.

“It takes a hard, prolonged freeze to kill them,” she added, noting that outdoor adventurers should be on the lookout for them year-round.

Barrera noted ticks enjoy dark, damp locations, often dwelling in well-kept yards as well as the more notorious tall grasses and wooded areas.

“A good thing this time of year is to keep leaf litter cleaned up,” said Barrera, noting that unkempt leaves make choice housing for the parasitic pests.

Those who venture outdoors should cover themselves and their clothing with protective insect sprays, said Barrera.

There is even specially-made outdoor clothing available online from companies RynoSkin and InsectShield which prevents tick and other insect bites, she said.

New Lyme Disease research shows the illness can be transferred even within the first 24-hours a tick is present on a host, said Barrera.

Those who find an embedded tick should consult a medical professional immediately.

According to the CDC, symptoms of Lyme Disease appearing within the first month of infection include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes and an erythema migrans (EM) rash – frequently appearing in the shape of a “bull's-eye.”

Long-term symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness, additional EM rashes, arthritis and joint pain/swelling, facial palsy, heart palpitations, dizziness or shortness of breath, inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, nerve and other body pains, and short-term memory issues.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease can last for an extended period of time and treatment can be expensive, said Barrera.

A major aim of the task force is to encourage insurance companies to cover the long-term costs of Lyme-Disease-related pain medication and antibiotics.

Government action

A release from Senator Lisa Baker's (R-20) Office states a joint Senate committee hearing took place on October 24 to observe “ongoing state efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease.”

They've conducted such efforts since the legislature created a state task force in 2014, said the release.

Legislators on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Aging and Youth Committee heard testimonies from the Acting Secretary of Health, physicians, university professors, various tick task forces and Lyme Disease associations throughout the state, and others, states the release.

Senator Baker – Health and Human Services Chair – called for state officials to take similar actions to their counterparts on the local and community levels.

Despite myriad efforts from local task forces, officials and research groups, Pennsylvania still carries an appearance of “lagging in coordinated and effective action,” said Baker.

She continued, “Because of the susceptibility of kids, because of the potential of severity if undiagnosed, because of the lifelong debilities that can result, it is indefensible to offer standard excuses about not enough money to do much or too few individuals requiring aggressive treatment.”

According to the release, Penn State Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Jennifer Intelicato-Young stated at the hearing, “While the majority of cases can be cured with a 28-day regimen of doxycycline, if treated early, a prominence of misdiagnosis and unreliable testing can oftentimes lead to a far more devastating and difficult disease to treat.”

Also in the release, Milford attorney John Klemeyer – a member of the Pike County Tick-Borne Disease Task Force – explained pediatricians play a vital role in combatting Lyme Disease as “the incidence of infections in young children is significantly higher than in the general population.”

Education and awareness about Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses have greatly reduced the number of new incidences, said Nicole Chinnici, director of East Stroudsburgh University's Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory – Pennsylvania's largest tick-testing research facility.

Informative resources

More information regarding Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses can be located on the county task force website:

The task force can also be found on Facebook.

They host a monthly support group for those living with Lyme Disease as well as intermittent informational presentations.

Details for these can be found on their online resources.

—Information from a release was used in this story.