With warmer weather and families feeling cooped up, many are choosing to spend their time this summer outside. While being outdoors lessens the COVID-19 spread, it increases your chances of running into another disease.
“Because the focus is so much on COVID maybe we don’t think about Lyme Disease as much, and I think that you’re going to see a huge increase in Lyme Disease cases,” said Dr. Eva Sapi, a University of New Haven biology professor and director of the Lyme Disease Research Program.
The CDC estimates there are more than 300,000 cases of the tickborne illness in the US every year with many of those cases in Connecticut.
“Let’s say if a family member comes down with symptoms, the question is, ‘Do I have COVID? Do I have Lyme Disease?’ Unfortunately, the symptoms are so overlapping, so it’ll be very confusing for the physicians,” said Dr. Sapi.
They can include flu-like symptoms like headaches, body aches, stomach pains, and fever. If you have symptoms, Dr. Sapi recommends that, due to the pandemic, you quickly get tested for COVID-19 first. If it comes back negative, she strongly suggests testing for Lyme.
“Unfortunately, we had a very mild winter. So actually if anything, that would be a very bad year for Lyme Disease,” said Dr. Sapi.
Recommendations for keeping ticks at bay include wearing long pants and tucking them into your socks and using EPA-registered insect repellants. When coming back inside, check yourself for ticks, put clothes in the dryer on high heat for ten minutes—longer if your clothes are damp—and take a shower.
While it’s important to enjoy time outside, it doesn’t hurt to be careful.
“Just take it seriously because this is something which can really ruin your life,” said Dr. Sapi.
Right now deer ticks are in their nymph form, about the size of a poppy seed, which can be very difficult to notice. Dr. Sapi says you shouldn’t expect to get a bullseye rash from Lyme Disease. She says studies show about half of cases don’t have it or sometimes the rash can look more like a mosquito bite.