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Joined: 22 Feb 2006
|Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:46 pm Post subject:
Our state has the third-highest number of Lyme disease cases in the country
Our state has the third-highest number of Lyme disease cases in the
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 07/11/06
BY SHAWN RHEA
GANNETT NEW JERSEY
For nature lovers, few areas are as attractive as South Jersey when the
Pinelands are in bloom. The diverse terrain offers everything from
densely forested state parks to wide-open farmland, meandering streams
and colorful meadows. But within those beautiful vistas lurk a tiny but
potentially disastrous health threat: the common tick.
Ticks, which feed on blood from a diverse population of animals, are
responsible for transmitting Lyme disease. The debilitating and
sometimes deadly illness is caused by bacteria that attack the central
nervous system, causing a variety of symptoms, including flulike
illness; joint and muscle pain and swelling; neurological difficulties
such as migraine, numbness, dizziness and involuntary twitching;
cardiac irregularities; and memory and vision problems.
South Jersey has highest rate
New Jersey has the third-highest incidence of Lyme disease, trailing
only New York and Pennsylvania, according to the most recent report
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numbers from the
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services also show Lyme
disease rates are higher in Southern New Jersey than in other parts of
"We generally have a lot of Lyme disease in this area," said Burlington
County Health Department spokesman Bob Gogats. Because of those high
rates, Gogats said it's important nature lovers know how to avoid tick
bites and the early symptoms of Lyme disease so they can receive timely
treatment and prevent more severe, long-term illness.
Lyme disease awareness is a message Shannon Jaskolski, 36, wishes she
had heard 18 years ago. During her freshman year of college, the
Pennsauken resident was bitten by several ticks that attached
themselves to her leg during a routine walk along a wooded path on the
Richard Stockton College campus in Pomona.
Know the signs
"When I found the ticks on my calves, I was so freaked out I just
scrubbed them off, which was probably the wrong thing to do," said
Jaskolski, who was unfamiliar with proper tick removal techniques.
Within a month, Jaskolski began experiencing nausea, memory loss,
flulike symptoms and bad headaches - all classic symptoms of Lyme
disease. Still, it took two years for her to get a proper diagnosis. In
the interim, Jaskolski said she was diagnosed with everything from
chronic bronchitis to walking pneumonia.
"My family doctor decided to test me for Lyme disease because he
actually got diagnosed with it himself," Jaskolski said. "I was
relieved to finally have a diagnosis that made sense."
Jaskolski was placed on a five-week regimen of intravenous antibiotics
to treat her advanced Lyme disease, but said she experienced limited
recovery. Over the years she's undergone several additional rounds of
antibiotic treatment, but has continued to experience the chronic
exhaustion, painful joints and other debilitating symptoms of Lyme
disease. "My doctor thinks the multiple bites and delay in diagnosis
caused my problems."
According to Dr. John Patterson, an infectious disease specialist and
medical director for the Burlington County Health Department, cases
like Jaskolski's can be difficult to treat because neurological damage
increases when the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are allowed to
flourish unchecked. "It's a disease that takes place over decades," he
explained. Treating tick bites and catching Lyme disease in its
earliest stage is key to preventing chronic disease, Patterson said.
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