Harford County, as many of us know either first-hand or because of someone we know, is not immune from the tick-borne disease. The revelation last week that Harford County Council President Billy Boniface has contracted the sickness is yet another reminder.
Lyme disease is treatable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it can also be debilitating.
Lyme disease "is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks," according to the CDC. "Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system."
Therein lies the problem. If discovered early, it can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics, according to the CDC. If not, it can be a serious health threat.
A little history of the disease also provides insight into why it's so dangerous.
"In the early 1970s, a mysterious group of rheumatoid arthritis cases occurred among children in Lyme, Connecticut, and two neighboring towns," according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Puzzled, researchers looked at several possible causes, such as contact with germs (microbes) in water or air. Realizing that most of the children with arthritis lived and played near wooded areas, they then focused their attention on deer ticks."
And the rest, as they say, is history. That history proves that people (and pets) of the Harford County area are just as apt to get Lyme disease as people anywhere else, and more so than a lot of places.
"We all do know the devastating effects," Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly told the county council at its meeting last week. "Many people in our own family and community have this disease."
As with any illness, prevention is key. "Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides and reducing tick habitat," according to the CDC, which also cautions that "ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases."
It's prime tick season that's ripe for spreading Lyme disease. Do your best to protect your family, your pets and you from the illness, so we can have fewer people facing what the county council president faces.
"I'm going to be dealing with this for the rest of my life," Boniface said.