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Pennsylvania to lead in Lyme disease cases in 2017

YORK, PA. -- Now that spring is here, more people may be exploring the outdoors.

However, the warm winter may have brought out an unwanted visitor, the black-legged tick, which is also known as the deer tick.

There are a few things people can be on the lookout for when you're headed outdoors, but you don't always have to be out in a heavily wooded area to catch a tick.

The black-legged tick or deer tick is known to transmit Lyme disease.

It may be difficult to spot it, but if bitten, officials advise to take precautions.

Penn State extension commercial horticulture educator Tim Abbey said "and if the mouth parts were embedded into me, I push into my skin and with a quick motion, just yank it straight up and out . You're trying to pull all the mouth parts out, because you don't want to leave behind the salivary glands that can continue to transmit the pathogen to you."

Pennsylvania is expected to lead the nation in the number of cases of Lyme disease in 2017.

"The black-legged tick which transmits Lyme disease to humans is found in all the counties in Pennsylvania now, but particularly around the Harrisburg area, we have the highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease," Abbey said.

A lack of snow this past winter didn't help reduce the tick population.

"Usually if you have snow cover, and it gets cold out, that still insulated them, but this year we just had, no snow, warm temperatures, so there's a high survivability," Abbey said.

There are a few tell tale signs of a tick bite.

WellSpan Health assistant program director Dr. Andre LiJoi said "oval red, rash, that will show up on whatever part of the body the tick bites, commonly at the waistline, or the armpits. It will stop where the clothing will stop."

"Certainly seek medical advice because that's early stage Lyme, that's when you want to treat it. The cure rate for early stage Lyme, especially for localized to the skin like that is very very high," Dr. LiJoi added.

Finding ticks may be closer to home than one might think.

"No easy cures for managing the black legged tick population, all the factors, meaning the hosts and the environment is all here. It doesn't keep me from going out in the woods, I hope it wouldn't stop anybody else, but it is a serious health issue," Abbey said.

"I've been all through the woods of Pennsylvania, and I rarely take a tick off me. Most of the people, many people come in with tick bites, it's casual, they're not out in the woods, they're in their yards," Dr. LiJoi said.

"Probably the infection rate with ticks is 20 to 25 percent, so that's still a high percentage of ticks," Abbey said.

Left untreated, Lyme disease can cause fever, chills, along with muscle and joint aches.

Officials advise wearing long clothing, and using an insect repellent such as Deet to protect yourself.

For anyone who finds a black-legged tick or deer tick bite, Dr. LiJoi said there are antibiotic pills available to take. It takes 36 to 72 hours for a tick bite to lead to infection.