The number of probable Lyme disease cases in North Carolina has been rising in recent years. The tick-borne bacteria can cause aches and fatigue, as well as serious neurological and muscular disorders.
The state is in the peak season for infection, according to state Department of Health and Human Services Entomologist Alexis Barbarin.
“I'm not exactly sure if that's because more people are enjoying the outdoors or more ticks are active, but consistently we have the highest number of reported Lyme, Rocky Mountain, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis -- pretty much all the tick-borne illnesses -- in July and August,” Barbarin said.
The state reported more than 240 probable Lyme cases last year. That's up from 185 the year before. Barbarin said avoiding wooded areas and wearing DEET can help prevent tick bites.
Barbarin also said the infection count might be rising just because more people are reporting symptoms to their doctors.
“These are just the people that we know about, but there could very well be more people out there,” Barbarin said. “I'm sure there are.”
Officials say cases are usually only considered confirmed when a patient has debilitating neurological or muscular symptoms. Those are usually late-stage characteristics.
“Early treatment is better because it prevents the progression of the disease, and late manifestations of the disease, as well,” Barbarin said.
The department is seeking federal grants to study tick concentration across the state to better target prevention efforts.