QUESTION: My family and I are planning on going camping this summer. We haven’t been camping in some time. Are there any health risks we should know about?
Summer is getting near, and many Pennsylvanians are beginning to look toward the summer months with an increasing desire to take a break and get some fresh air. Many Pennsylvanians will chose to go camping or hiking in Pennsylvania’s beautiful state parks. However, there are some health risks associated with those plans of which residents should be aware.
Nationwide, 12,500 people contract Lyme disease every year. Between 2001 and 2005, 3,566 cases were reported in Pennsylvania. Residents should consider that the Pennsylvania Department of Health considers there to be a “moderate risk” in Erie County regarding Lyme disease infections.
The single most effective first line of defense against Lyme disease is prevention. There are several simple and effective ways to achieve this:
Avoid tick infested areas;
Wear light colored clothing so it will be easier to detect ticks;
Tuck pant legs into socks or boots, and shirts into pants;
Tape the areas where pants and socks meet;
Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants for added protection;
Walk in the center of trails to avoid overhanging brush; and
Check for and remove ticks from yourself, family members and pets after leaving potentially tick-infested areas.
Second, early diagnosis is an additional measure to ensure safety. In fact, most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, especially if treatment is begun early in the course of the illness. However, if left untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, resulting in increasingly serious complications requiring intensive therapy.
Lyme disease can infect various parts of the body which complicates diagnosis due to variation in the symptoms from person to person. These symptoms typically include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic circular skin rash called Eythema Migrans (EM).
EMs are usually the first sign of infection, occurring at the site of the tick bite. The rash, which occurs in approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of infected persons, is typically evident after a delay of three to 30 days. Moreover, one of the distinctive characteristics of EMs is that they gradually expand over the course of several days, reaching nearly 12 inches in diameter.
I would encourage anyone planning on spending a great deal of time outdoors to take precautions against tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease. For more information, visit my Web site at RepSonney.com. Here’s wishing you a safe and enjoyable vacation season.
Rep. Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives