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Health experts urge caution as PA enters “Lyme Season”

YORK, P.A. --- The time has come for the return of a menace the size of a pencil tip.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health say the deer tick, which carries Lyme diseases, can be found in every county in the commonwealth.

Of all states keeping track of suspected Lyme Disease cases, Pennsylvania leads the country.

Health experts say "Lyme Season" runs from April to October.

Over the last couple decades, Dr. John Goldman, the infectious diseases specialist at UPMC Pinnacle said it's only gotten worse.

"We'd see a couple cases of Lyme, per year. Now, we see a couple hundreds of cases of Lyme," said Dr. Goldman.

He recommended wearing light-colored clothing in the brush or woods, to spot ticks easily.

He also said wear clothes that covers wrists and tuck pants into socks.

He said a common misconception is to burn or smother a tick when it bites.

It is the exact opposite of what to do.

"The tick gets distressed...throws up...and most of the Lyme is in the tick's foregut. So, you actually give yourself a higher dose of Lyme," said Dr. Goldman.

Lyme Disease isn't limited to those with two-legs but those with four legs, as well.

Dr. Katie Berlin at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital said the disease is a year-round concern for dogs.

"You can't say that your dog is never going to be exposed if you live in Pennsylvania. It's just not realistic," said Dr. Berlin.

She said the best protection for dogs against ticks is prescription strength products or Lyme vaccines.

She also said there are leashes with months of protection.

But with protections or not, she said they consider all dogs at risk for the disease.

"We see dogs that are couch dogs that barely pee outside. All they have to do is go for a walk where there's grass or you can bring ticks in on your clothes or yourself," said Dr. Berlin.

Lyme Disease symptoms for dogs can be hard to spot, according to Dr. Berlin.

They include fever, lethargic behavior and, most commonly, joint pain.

In worst case scenarios, it can cause fatal kidney disease.

For people, Dr. Goldman said early signs include a summer flu, a bulls-eye shaped rash, or both.

Severe cases include arthritis, swelling, heart blockage or, encephalitis.

Health officials say the best prevention is vigilance by doing once-overs of yourself or your pet after coming back indoors.