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Beware Of Ticks And The Diseases They Carry

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New York is one of 13 states where 96 percent of Lyme disease cases occur, and doctors and researchers urge New Yorkers to take guard against the disease. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

Ticks are a plague during the summer months.

"The ticks are nasty creatures," says Dr. Brian Fallon, a psychiatrist who heads Columbia University's Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Research Center. "Ticks like moist, damp, shaded areas, so they tend to hang out on the edge of the woods. They tend to hang out on paths or near by paths on the bushes, so that as you brush by the grass or the bushes, the ticks will then attach to your leg."

As deer, mice and even bird populations travel, reported cases of Lyme disease have spread as well, throughout the Northeast and upper Midwest.

Fallon says there is still so much to learn from the diseases ticks carry and their impact on the human body.

"They carry not just borellia [bacteria], but about 30 percent carry another organism as well that can get transmitted into your blood stream," he says.

Once infected with Lyme, some get a rash that resembles a bull's eye. Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches are other symptoms.

If left untreated, the symptoms get more severe, including arthritis, chronic neurological complaints and other cognitive defects.

While treatment is effective for most cases identified early, antibiotic therapy may not help those suffering with lingering symptoms.

"We need more treatment trials to try to understand and confirm what is the best treatment. This is not a simple disease and to treat it as if it is simple is a mistake," Fallon says.

According to the city Department of Health the number of confirmed cases in the five boroughs has gone down each year since 2009. Still, New Yorkers, especially those that enjoy the outdoors, should keep an eye out for those little bugs

"They go out to the Jersey Shore or they go out to Long Island, so they're going to be exposed to many areas where there are ticks. They're going to come back and then maybe a few weeks later they'll start to get symptomatic," Fallon says.

Roughly 400 New Yorkers were diagnosed with a tick-borne disease last year, with Manhattan having the highest numbers of cases. With few tick control measures in place, it is up to individuals to be vigilant.

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