Lyme disease now, EEE could soon follow

GRAFTON, Mass. — A lengthy shutdown of much the state’s economy and activities left most of us with one choice for most of the spring, go outdoors.

Will that translate into greater tick-borne diseases?

Sam Telford says we are about to find out. Telford is a professor of Infectious Disease and Global Health at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

“We should be seeing Lyme disease cases hot and heavy now for the next three to four weeks,” Telford said.

Telford showed Boston 25 News a container of dozens of ticks he collected from a station in Nantucket recently.

Ticks of course can carry a slew of diseases including Lyme disease.

“We seen and have gotten a lot of calls from people in the community about bullseye rashes,” said Christina Hermos, MD, a pediatric infectious disease doctor with UMass Memorial. “Lyme disease appropriately treated, the vast majority of the time, is cured.”

In 2019, state data show 1,965 emergency department visits across the state related to tick-borne disease.

The majority of tick-borne disease cases occur between June and August, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Some symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever, headaches, and muscle aches are similar to those of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.

Telford said the emphasis on having temperatures checked because of COVID-19 brings more attention to other public health concerns, such as Lyme disease.

If weather remains dry, Telford said ticks will be gone by mid-July, though it is too early to know since summer just started.

Recent warm weather may spell problems when it comes to mosquitoes, said Telford.

“The warmer it is, the faster they develop.”

Last year, 12 people became infected and three died of Eastern Equine Encephalitis which comes in three-year cycles, according to Telford and state health experts.

“Regardless of predictions, regardless of numbers, always, always, always protect yourself. It’s very simple, wear repellant,” Teflord added.