Lyme disease on the rise in our region - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lyme disease on the rise in our region

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About a month ago, Priscilla Weismann got very ill.

"I had chills and fevers, nausea and vomiting," she said. "I was in bed for about three or four days."

Weismann is outside in her Hanover, N.H., yard often. She knew that she had been bitten by something, but it wasn't until she was diagnosed with Lyme disease that she realized it was a deer tick. And then came another surprise:

"Fifteen people in Hanover," Weismann said. "My neighbors and my friends."

Like Weismann-- all of them treated for Lyme disease.

"We are seeing dozens of cases a week," said Dr. Jeffrey Parsonnet, an infectious diseases specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. "I get calls from doctors all over the state, so it's really dramatically increased."

And the numbers back it up. In 2011, there were 1,321 cases in New Hampshire; there were 1,456 last year-- huge numbers compared to 1999 when the state saw only 55 cases.

Across the river in Vermont, there is a similar story. In 2011, there were 623 confirmed or probable cases. Last year, the number actually dropped a little bit to 522 cases. But that's still considerably more than 1999 when Vermont had only 26 cases.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: Do we know why?

Dr. Jeffrey Parsonnet: That's the million dollar question. There are lot of theories about why we are seeing more Lyme. One thing that is clear is that a much high percentage of the deer ticks are now infected with the organism.

Weismann says the solution is an easy one-- better control of the region's deer population.

"Deer roam through our area day and night, even in the winter," she said.

But the experts say it's not that simple.

"The major reservoir for the tick is actually mice, not deer," Parsonnet explained.

Whatever the answer, Weismann is sharing her story.

"It is just not brought to the public's attention," she said.

And after three weeks of antibiotics, she says she's feeling better and up for the task.

"I have not heard a thing this year about Lyme disease," Weismann said.

Doctors say the best way to avoid the disease is by being vigilant. Use insect repellant and wear long clothes if you are going to be in the woods and also check yourself regularly to avoid a tick bite altogether.

Doctors also say that it takes at least 24 hours while a tick is latched onto your body to transmit the disease.

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