Other tick-borne illnesses, not Lyme, problematic in Region 8

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Lyme Disease rates are 10 times higher than previously reported. Most years, only 20,000 to 30,000 cases are reported.

It's a number the CDC estimates is closer to 300,000. However, according to an infectious disease specialist in Jonesboro, there are other tick-borne illnesses that we need to watch for here in Region 8.

Estimates from the CDC on a more accurate number of Lyme Disease cases nationwide are staggering.

"The numbers are high, but they're not necessarily surprising," Infectious Disease Specialist with St. Bernards, Dr. Carl Abraham told Region 8 News.

Dr. Abraham said those numbers don't really affect us here in Arkansas.

"Arkansas Department of Health has not reported a case of Lyme to the CDC since 2003," he explained.

That doesn't mean we're safe from tick-borne illnesses in Region 8.

"Erlichiosis is a potentially life-threatening disease, we've got plenty of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and we're one of the parts of the country that actually has a significant amount of Tularemia," Dr. Abraham told us. "All of those things can be life threatening."

They also all present with similar symptoms. Which is why Dr. Abraham said sometimes, physicians might diagnose an Arkansan with Lyme Disease

"Tests in areas where the disease is not present, you end up with a lot of false positive results," he said.

However, after a tick bite, there are certain symptoms to look for that indicate possible tick-borne illnesses.

"You start to have fever, or if you start to have rash or you don't feel good, you need to contact a physician right away. Some of these illnesses can be rapidly progressive," he said.

Dr. Abraham said if you've been outside, hunting, in the fields or even around your dogs, it's important to get a full-body tick check within 24 hours.

"And folks, we really mean a full body tick check," Dr. Abraham emphasized. "Once they've jumped on you, they can travel all the way to the base of your neck, underneath your arms, in your groin, between your buttock cheeks. They like to get to those moist places so you've really got to do a full body tick check and you should do that every time you go outside."

Dr. Abraham said to help fend off ticks in the first place, use insect repellents containing DEET. Also, though it may be uncomfortable, especially in the summer months, wear long-sleeved, light clothing and tuck your pant legs into your socks.

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