If you thought Lyme disease was an issue only in rural or wooded areas, think again. The rapid growth of deer populations across the United States have caused the threat of Lyme disease to spread into the suburbs and even urban areas.
A recent study conducted at Columbia University in New York City determined that millions of city dwellers are now at risk for contracting the disease, which is spread to humans when an infected deer tick bites someone. Lyme disease has now been located in all 50 states, although it’s most prevalent in the northeastern U.S.
Columbia grad student Meredith VanAcker, who headed the study, said, “What was surprising was that although tick populations in these parks increased in the recent past, we see the same level of infection in these urban tick populations as we do [in wooded areas].” The study examined ticks from 24 parks within New York City’s five boroughs. Ticks found in the Bronx and Staten Island were especially likely to be infected with Lyme disease, although every park that was accessible to deer had some infected ticks.
If an embedded tick is discovered and removed within 48 hours, the odds of contracting Lyme disease are quite slim but increase the longer the tick remains on the body. Symptoms of Lyme disease include rash, severe joint pain and swelling, headache and neck stiffness, irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations, a “drooping” on one or both sides of the face, or shooting pains and numbness in hands and feet. Contact a doctor immediately if you have these symptoms.