Lyme disease on the rise

By Kelly McCarthy

May 16, 2013 Updated May 16, 2013 at 11:54 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Checking for ticks and preventing Lyme disease is more important than ever in the Southern Tier. Confirmed cases of Lyme are on the rise in New York state.

Every county in the region has seen an increase in reported cases from 2007 to 2011.

Tompkins County saw the most staggering climb, with eight cases of Lyme disease in 2007 up to 145 cases in 2011.

Broome County saw three cases in 2007, and 62 in 2011.

Tioga County had three cases reported in 2007 and 24 cases reported in 2011.

Chenango County Lyme cases increased by 13 during the four-year period, while Otsego County saw 27 more cases in 2011 than in 2007.

Walkers and hikers are aware of ticks and their dangers, but don't always take the proper precautions, experts say.

"I don't think I have as much a concern as I probably should," said Tim Burns, of Kirkwood. "But I think it's one of those you'll always think it will happen to somebody else."

The odds that Burns will run into a tick during his walk outside are greater than ever before. There are ways to make sure a day outdoors doesn't lead to a long illness.

"It takes at least 36 hours of a tick being attached to you to infect you with Lyme disease," said Communicable Disease Nurse Marianne Yourdon. "So you have that window of getting that tick out."

Cover your arms and legs before taking a trip outdoors, and wear insect repellent with at least 20 percent DEET.

"We're talking about some pretty small ticks," Yourdon said. "This time of year it's the nymphs that you need to worry about, and they are like the size of a poppy seed."

Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics, but a full recovery is still a question left for doctors.

"There is controversy out there as to whether or not we can truly clear Lyme disease," said Marita Florini, FNP at Vestal Medical Associates.

Long-term side effects like joint pain and inflammation have been reported by patients long after their Lyme disease was treated.

"There are some worrisome things with long-term Lyme," Florini said. "So it's not anything to fool around with. The best thing to do is prevention."

Broome County has already had four confirmed cases of Lyme this year, and experts don't expect the number of infected ticks to decrease anytime soon.

Lyme disease is on the agenda of one of our area's congressmen.

Chris Gibson (R-19th District) is pushing for improvements in ways to detect and treat Lyme disease.

He's wants to dedicate a portion of the $325 million Agricultural Research Fund -- part of the Farm Bill -- to improve research on diagnosing the disease.

Separately, he's sponsoring legislation to create a Federal Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee.