Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – After the number of cases of Lyme disease in Onondaga County quadrupled in 2011, health officials are closely monitoring cases in the area.
The ticks that carry the disease are most active from May through August, making summer the prime time for people to protect themselves.
The trademark symptom – a target shaped pattern – is one of the signs of Lyme disease, but it doesn’t always appear.
One Central New York woman has been struggling with the disease since 1994. The target pattern never appeared, but she was exhausted and suffered from painful headaches, as well as flu-like symptoms.
"I didn't know how sick I was until I started feeling better. It was an eye opening experience; I could see how sick I had become over time,” said Kristin Schofield.
The condition can be treated if it is diagnosed early, but can become very serious if ignored.
“If left untreated, it can progress into more serious health problems. It can affect the central nervous system and the heart…arthritis and other problems,” said Melanie Drotar of the Onondaga County Health Department.
It takes 24 to 36 hours for a tick to infect a body with the disease, which is why anyone who spends time outside should check themselves daily.
The ticks will migrate to the warmer parts of the body, so a person should check their armpits, hairline, and groins.
Health officials say a shower is necessary after a day outside in order to wash away any ticks that have not yet attached.
In addition, hikers or others walking through high grass – where ticks tend to live – should bug spray with at least 20 percent DEET.
One cannot build up resistance to Lyme disease, so it can be contracted multiple times.
A number of Lyme disease support groups exist in Central New York.
The CNY Chapter of Empire State Lyme Disease
meets the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Onondaga County Free Library.
More information on CNY Lyme Support is available at the group's website.