Those struggling with Lyme disease know all too well the damage that the infected deer tick can do.
New numbers show an increase, year after year, of deer ticks that have tested positive for Lyme disease.
Kelly Smith has been suffering with Lyme disease for 16 years, and is one of the organizing members of the Eastern Connecticut Lyme Disease Support Group that meets once per month.
"They think they're alone. They're desperate, they're upset because the doctors treat them like they are idiots...like they have a mystery disease,” Smith said.
Lyme is caused by a bacterium in infected black-legged ticks, or deer ticks, that latch onto people in wooded environments and dig into your skin.
Typical symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash.
If untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
"You have to take supplements and you have to take different types of medications like you might find with a natural-path,” Smith said.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station tests ticks and finds the rates of those with Lyme are increasing.
In 2011, 22 percent of ticks tested were positive, and that jumped to 32 percent in 2015.
Cities and towns around the state are also seeing more deer ticks test positive with the bacterium.
In many towns, like Southington, Torrington, Stafford, New Haven, New London, Fairfield and Milford, more than 30 percent of the ticks tested were positive.
Russell Melmed, an Epidemiologist with Ledge Light Health District, said when you’re in a wooded or high grass area, be aware that as it gets warmer ticks will latch on.
"We see numbers increase and decrease yearly. A lot of it depends on the rodent population on the deer activity and deer populations and the type of season it has been as far as temperature,” Melmed said.
It is also important to check pets for ticks if they’ve been outside.
To learn more about the disease and support groups, click here.
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