Lyme disease cases on the rise in Indiana

FILE - This is a March 2002 file photo of a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I. Researchers focused on ticks and the debilitating diseases they spread say the heavy snow that blanketed the Northeast this winter was like a cozy quilt for baby blacklegged ticks that are now questing for blood as the weather warms up. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – A tick may be smaller than you think. If you’ve seen a tick on yourself, on someone else or on an animal, you may have seen a tick that looks larger because it’s already latched on to a host and started feeding. However, that’s not how they look when they start out.

“The ticks are very, very small,” Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health’s Dr. David Lin said. “They look akin to a moving freckle so they’re easy to miss.”

Although small, the deer tick or black-legged tick can transmit certain bacteria through a bite that can cause Lyme disease. It’s a disease commonly known on the east coast. In fact, it got its name from the town of Lyme, Connecticut where an outbreak happened.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 100 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease in Indiana in 2013. A decade earlier that number was fewer than 35.

“Already, I’ve seen at least three cases so far this year,” IU Health Arnett’s Dr. Mitch Krathwohl said. “And that’s more than any of the past years I’ve seen.”

Both Dr. Krathwohl and Dr. Lin notice the increase in Lyme disease cases. They think it’s a mixture of more disease-causing ticks and awareness.

“People are recognizing the disease more,” Krathwohl said. “They’re thinking about Lyme. I think for many years people didn’t think you could get Lyme in Indiana. Now, people know ticks are here that carry Lyme disease.”

Lin said, “This time of year when people are having exposure to the woods and areas where deer frequent, they are having a higher risk of exposure to the tick itself.”

If caught soon enough, the disease can be treated with antibiotics and not leave long lasting effects. Symptoms can include a fever, arthritis and a distinguishable rash.

“Characteristically, it will have a target shape,” Lin said. “Originally, the spot of the bite will be red. Then a red ring that spreads out from it.”

There are cases where a patient didn’t know they were ever bitten by a tick and never got a rash making the disease hard to diagnose.

Doctors said wear long clothing and DEET insect repellant while in wooded areas. When inside do a full-body check for ticks.

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