April showers and May flowers may be especially welcome this spring because of the harsh winter just past. But this is also the time of year when anyone visiting or living in New Jersey should be on the lookout for another, less pleasurable harbinger of the season — the blacklegged, or deer, tick.
Hardy little parasites whose bite can transmit the bacterial infection that causes Lyme disease, as well as some other bacterial and viral infections, deer ticks are present year-round. But as temperatures rise in the spring and summer, the ticks become more active and go in search of new hosts on which to feed. These include deer, small rodents, birds, dogs and, of course, humans.
A human who contracts Lyme disease can find the results unpleasant, especially if the disease is left untreated. Over time, it can affect every area of the body….
While there are other tick-borne illnesses — including the extremely rare Powassan virus that killed a Warren County woman last year — Lyme disease is the most frequently reported one in the United States. It is found almost exclusively in the Northeast and upper Midwest. In 2012, the last year for which data is available, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that New Jersey ranked third in the country, after Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, with more than 2,700 new cases of Lyme disease.
Shereen Semple, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health, said that although Lyme disease is most prevalent in the northwestern counties of Hunterdon, Warren, Sussex and Morris, it is endemic throughout the state.
“Anyone can get Lyme disease, and all ages are at risk,” said Semple. “Males of all ages tend to have the highest number of cases, but the risk is present for everyone.”