CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Four additional West Virginia counties have been declared endemic for Lyme disease, bringing the total to 11.
Kanawha, Marshall, Roane and Wetzel counties were declared endemic for the tick-borne disease as of Aug. 15, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Friday. They joined Berkeley, Hampshire, Hancock, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan and Wood counties on the list.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, the state health commissioner, said a county is considered endemic for Lyme disease if it has at least two confirmed cases in patients who had not traveled recently and could only have been bitten by a tick within that county.
The state Bureau for Public Health says there have been 149 cases of Lyme disease in West Virginia this year — nearly double the 77 reported in the same time frame in 2014.
Gupta said the increase in West Virginia reflects a national trend.
“We’ve sent an alert to providers so that they can know what symptoms to look for and what tests to consider,” Gupta said. “We’re always trying to respond to our surveillance activities when we identify things like this, so that our partners in health care can stay up to date with both treatment and diagnosis.”
In West Virginia, the disease has been reported in 30 counties, Gupta said, and more than 70 percent of cases have been reported within the 11 counties considered endemic. The rest are among patients who have reported traveling within the three- to 30-day period for the onset of Lyme disease symptoms, Gupta said.
“If you’re going into wooded areas, make sure you’re wearing protective clothing and taking proper precautions to avoid tick bites,” Gupta said. “You want to wear long pants and sleeves, use insect repellent and make sure that you’re checking yourself, your children and your pets for ticks regularly, because the length of time the tick remains on your body increases your chances for contracting the disease.”
There are five species of tick native to West Virginia, but only one, the deer tick, carries Lyme disease.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.