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North Carolina recognizes risk of Lyme

Are you living in a state where the medical board--or worse, your own doctor--won't acknowledge Lyme disease?

Until recently, many North Carolina residents and physicians have presumed that the risk of getting Lyme within state borders was nonexistent. Casualties have included not only residents who contracted the disease, but also Dr Joseph Jemsek's Charlotte, NC medical practice. (Please note: Dr Jemsek moved his clinic to Fort Mill, SC in 2008.)

Dr Carl Williams performs disease surveillance for the North Carolina State epidemiology department. His office is in the tick-counting business. He says that unfortunately, the risk of contracting a tick-borne illness is nothing new in NC.

"Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is still a greater risk than Lyme in North Carolina, and you can catch both of them here," says Dr Williams.

Risk of Lyme disease in NC has now been officially acknowledged. "However," he adds, "skepticism is high because counts are low." That is, the numbers of confirmed cases of Lyme are still lower than cases of RMSF. There has been one fatality due to RMSF in North Carolina this year.

"As far as prevention goes," says Dr Williams, "there is nothing new to recommend. The same old tried and true methods are still the most effective."

Cooler weather is no deterrent to ticks, so he recommends that we stay tick-aware at all times of the year. "Just because it's January, for example, don't think you can't take precautions or don't need to. We want people to recognize that there are a variety of ticks here in NC, and that it's important to take care and adhere to preventative measures."

What are those tried and true methods?

"Use DEET on areas of exposed skin, and Permethrin on clothes. Perform tick checks when you come in from an area where you may have been exposed to ticks, and realize that even though you can significantly reduce your chances of getting bitten by a tick, taking these safety measures is really not a guarantee. There is no failsafe mechanism to guarantee that a tick will not get onto your skin, or attach to it."
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