Written by Patrick Luce
Incidence of Lyme disease had been decreasing in recent years in Rhode Island, but the numbers have increased in 2012 and early 2013.
There were 217 cases of Lyme in Rhode Island in 2012, up from 159 cases in 2011. See the map above for a breakdown of the incidence rate by county. Previously, the number of cases had dropped since a high of 235 in 2009, according to data provided by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
The latest numbers indicate there were 80 cases of Lyme disease in the first quarter of 2013, an uptick the health department attributes to "increased case report follow up and not due to any substantial change in Lyme transmission across Rhode Island." Second quarter data is expected in about a month, the department said.
Lyme disease affects more than 30,000 people in the US each year and is the leading disease transmitted through bug bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How to Protect Yourself
Named for the town of Old Lyme in Connecticut where it was first discovered in 1975, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that occurs when an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick, attaches to and bites a host, passing along the bacteria.
Thirteen states in the Northeast and Midwest reported 96 percent of all cases of Lyme Disease in 2011. That’s because blacklegged ticks only live in those parts of the county, the CDC said. The ticks are most commonly found in moist, wooded or grassy areas.
Pritish Tosh of the Mayo Clinic recommends “checking [for] and removing ticks after outdoor activities, wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent.” A tick must be removed within 36-48 hours in order to prevent the transmission of bacteria.
The CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to remove the tick, and experts said to contact your doctor if you develop signs of infection such as:
Red, expanding bulls-eye rash
Muscle and joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes
If you develop any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately, because the disease can be frustratingly difficult to nail down. Lyme disease survivor Katina Makris told Patch she was misdiagnosed for five years.
“I called it my full life tsunami,” she said.
Then 42, Makris was bedridden with flu-like symptoms. She says that as a result, her marriage crumbled, she lost her job and then had to sell her house to pay her medical bills.
Avoid moist, humid environments and leafy areas where ticks like to live
Repel ticks with bug sprays, like DEET or Permethrin
Check your family and pets for ticks on a daily basis
Be alert for fever or rash, even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick
Limit pet access to tick-infested areas, and use tick collars or spot treatment
Create tick-safe zones in your yard by raking up leaves, using a bug spray and discouraging deer