Experts fear bad tick season amid coronavirus pandemic

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FILE – This March 2002 file photo shows a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. On Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a record number of tick-borne diseases _ more than 59,000 _ were reported in 2017. It’s a 22 percent increase from the number reported the year before. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

DALLAS (NEXSTAR) — As if there wasn’t enough to worry about in 2020, experts are warning about a potentially bad tick season.

The Lyme Disease Research Group reports a mild winter could mean an especially rough time for ticks.

Medical experts fear that many people who’ve been stuck inside due to coronavirus may “let their guard down” once they’re able to venture outdoors and not pay attention to tick bite prevention.

Some symptoms of Lyme disease are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19, according to medical professionals. Ticks can carry Lyme and other dangerous diseases that can be severe if not treated properly.

Some symptoms of Lyme disease that are similar to COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced an increase in tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and health officials in Pennsylvania recently addressed the issue.

“Over the past several months, we have seen an increase in the number of emergency department visits related to tick bites,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Some symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever, chills and headache, are similar to symptoms of COVID-19.”

Over time if Lyme disease is not treated properly, it can lead to severe symptoms that affect the heart, nervous system and joints.

Anyone can be at risk for getting a tick anytime they are outside, particularly in wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Ticks can even be found in one’s own back yard.

It is important to take steps to decrease your chances of getting bitten by ticks.

FILE – In this undated file photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick, rests on a plant. (CDC via AP, File)

To reduce your chances of a tick bite:

  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter;
  • Use a repellent that contains at least 20% DEET;
  • Wear light-colored clothing;
  • Conduct full-body tick checks on yourself and on your pets after spending time outdoors; and
  • Take a bath or shower within 2 hours after coming indoors.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a tick, make sure to monitor the area for any kinds of symptoms and contact your local health care provider immediately.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include the following:

  • A red, swollen bulls-eye shape rash;
  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Headache;
  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle and joint aches; and
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

These early stages of Lyme disease may appear in as few as two days or as long as 30 days after exposure.

Later stage symptoms such as arthritis, heart and neurological issues could appear months later.

Reported illnesses have ranged from people with few to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.

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