NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The number of people diagnosed with lyme disease is the highest it’s been in two decades, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
Alvaro Toledo, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, said there were a few reasons for the increase, reports CBSN New York’s Meg Baker.
In 2017 there were more than 5,000 cases reported of lyme disease in the due to more awareness about the disease, more accurate testing than in years past and changes in New Jersey’s environment with high humidity across the landscape.
“The tick population is also dependent on weather conditions and also the presence of animals to feed on,” said New Jersey state epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan.
Toledo says the black legged tick or deer tick is attracted to wooded and grassy areas. The specific tick that carries lyme disease uses deer and rodents as hosts to breed.
The Garden State just happens to have a large population of both. Tan notes the top counties with infections are the more heavily wooded Warren County, Hunterdon County, Sussex County and Morris County.
LYME DISEASE RESOURCES
- CDC Lyme Disease Educational Materials
- Lyme Disease Prevention Comic Strip For Kids
- Lyme Disease Prevention Fact Sheet (English)
- Lyme Disease Prevention Fact Sheet (Spanish)
- Lyme Disease Association Resources
- Lyme Disease Book Reading List
- American Lyme Disease Foundation Inc.
- Tick Identification Guide
Morris County had the highest number of people infected. It’s a county filled with a lot of trees and wildlife.
Young ticks can be especially hard to spot.
“They often bite in areas where you are not exposed to sun, like arm pits like all those gross areas,” said Toledo.
Toledo says personal protection is best: When outdoors, wear a hat, long pants, high socks, apply repellent and do a full check of your body after coming back inside to prevent a bite.
Last summer a report found that the tick-borne illness had been detected in all 50 states and cases continued to rise.
Quest Diagnostics has released their findings of over six million blood tests taken over the last seven years. The New Jersey-based clinical laboratory says cases of Lyme have exploded in unusual areas like California and Florida.
Lab workers believe ticks are finding it easier to survive in new regions and spreading diseases to unsuspecting residents.