HARRISBURG, Pa. — Now that summer is in full swing, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine issued a reminder to Pennsylvanians that it's also tick season, too.
And since ticks can carry Lyme disease -- whose symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19 -- Pennsylvanians should be extra careful and take steps to prevent tick bites, Levine said.
“Over the past several months, we have seen an increase in the number of emergency department visits related to tick bites,” Levine said in a press release. “Some symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever, chills and headache, are similar to symptoms of COVID-19. It is essential that all residents know the proper ways to protect themselves against ticks and are aware of the dangerous diseases they can carry. We want all Pennsylvanians to get outside and be healthy but do so in the safest way possible.”
Preliminary data show that more than 8,500 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Pennsylvania in 2019, Levine said. The department is continuing to compile complete Lyme disease data, and final numbers for 2019 should be available within the next month.
Over time, if not treated, Lyme disease can lead to severe symptoms that affect the heart, nervous system and joints, according to the department.
You are at risk of getting a tick any time you are outside, including in wooded and bushy areas, areas with high grass and leaf litter, and even in your own yard.
This is why it is important to take steps to decrease your chances of getting bitten, Levine said.
To reduce your chances of a tick bite:
- Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter;
- Use a repellent that contains at least 20% DEET;
- Wear light-colored clothing;
- Conduct full-body tick checks on yourself and on your pets after spending time outdoors; and
- Take a bath or shower within 2 hours after coming indoors.
If you have been bitten by a tick, make sure to monitor the area for any kinds of symptoms and contact your health care provider immediately.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can include:
- A red, swollen bulls-eye shape rash;
- Muscle and joint aches; and
- Swollen lymph nodes.
Early stage symptoms of Lyme, like the ones mentioned above, may appear in as few as two days or as long as 30 days after exposure, according to the department.
Later stage symptoms like arthritis, heart and neurological issues may appear months later. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with few to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.
Some symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to COVID-19. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell