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Westchester Residents, Be Warned: Lyme Disease Peak Season Is Here

Dr. Debra Spicehandler, pictured at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map shows the prevalence of Lyme Disease in Westchester County and the tristate area. Photo Credit: CDC

The following is Part 1 of a two-part report.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- If you are planning of getting reacquainted with the outdoors, be warned: the chance of getting Lyme Disease is higher than in recent months.

According to Dr. Debra Spicehandler, co-chairman of the infectious disease department at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, the peak periods of time for contracting the disease are late spring, summer and early fall. To decrease the risk of getting a tick bite, which is the cause of Lyme Disease, she suggested either wearing long sleeves and long pants or using inspect repellant that contains DEET.

Lyme Disease is transmitted from a deer tick that attaches itself to a body, according to Spicehandler, who cautioned that a person may not know that they have a bite.

“Sometimes they fall off before you are even aware of the tick bite,” she said.

Additionally, an infected tick will not always transmit the disease, she explained. Rather, the risk of transmission increases the longer a tick stays on a body.

Lyme Disease has three stages, according to Spicehandler. The first usually involves a rash in the shape of a bulls-eye that appears about a week after the bite and grows in size as time passes. There is the possibility of more of these rashes. A person with the disease early on can develop symptoms that include headaches, joint pains and fever, Spicehandler noted. Early detection is not easy. Spicehandler explained that blood testing usually will not come back positive.

Spicehandler, who advises going to a physician, also discussed treatments. During the early stage, antibiotic treatment can be administered. A common remedy is called oral doxycycline, which can also treat another tick-borne illness called Ehrlichiosis.

The second stage, according to Spicehandler can involve meningitis and cardiac problems, while another possible symptom is Bell's palsy. The second stage comes usually after at least a month, she noted.

The third stage, which is rare now and involves leaving the disease untreated, involves neurological and arthritis symptoms. Treatment for more advanced Lyme Disease, according to Spicehandler, involves intravenous medication, which is usually given for at least a month.

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