NH DHHS Warns Residents of Increase in Lyme Disease

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is reminding people to take precautions against tick-borne diseases this season, especially Lyme disease, which has become much more prevalent in the State. DHHS has posted a prevention video on its website, www.dhhs.nh.gov, to help residents avoid tick bites and learn how to check for ticks after spending time outdoors.

“We have definitely seen an increase in cases of Lyme disease in the past few years,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS. “We had reported in 2008 that half of the black-legged (or deer) ticks sampled in Rockingham, Strafford, and Hillsborough counties tested positive for Lyme disease, and the risk is still great this year, especially with the early spring. It is not too early to take precautions as tick bites have already been reported. New Hampshire has much to offer, and we want to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors, but to do it safely.”

There were 1200 cases of Lyme disease reported to DPHS in 2009, 1598 cases in 2008, and 900 in 2007. While the number of cases has shown an upward trend in recent years it is not known whether this is because of an increased number of ticks carrying the disease, a heightened awareness of the disease among patients and clinicians, or both. Early symptoms of Lyme disease often, but not always, include a large circular rash at the site of the tick bite, accompanied by chills, fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, swollen glands, and joint pain.

Black-legged ticks can also carry and transmit two other diseases in New Hampshire: babesiosis and anaplasmosis. These three illnesses are all preventable by avoiding being bitten by ticks. To prevent tick bites:

  • Avoid tick-infested areas such as overgrown grass and brush and leaf litter
  • Use insect repellent that works on ticks
  • Wear long pants and sleeves when possible, and tuck pants into socks
  • Do a thorough tick check after being outdoors
  • Reduce ticks around your home by keeping grass short and removing leaf litter
  • Monitor yourself if you are bitten by a tick and tell your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms, even if you did not notice a tick bite

For more information, visit the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov/DHHS/CDCS/default.htm  go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/index.htm  or call the DHHS Division of Communicable Disease Control and Surveillance at 603-271-4496.