(CBS) – A new report has found that the tick-borne illness Lyme disease has been detected in all 50 states and cases continue to rise.
Quest Diagnostics has released their findings of over six million blood tests taken over the last seven years. The New Jersey-based clinical laboratory says cases of Lyme have exploded in unusual areas like California and Florida. Lab workers believe ticks are finding it easier to survive in new regions and spreading diseases to unsuspecting residents.
“Our data show that positive results for Lyme are both increasing in number and occurring in geographic areas not historically associated with the disease,” researchers wrote in the July 30 press release. “We hypothesize that these significant rates of increase may reinforce other research suggesting changing climate conditions that allow ticks to live longer and in more regions may factor into disease risk.”
Disease-carrying ticks are normally found in the Northeast and cases in those areas are still climbing as well. Lyme cases found in Pennsylvania and the six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) made up over 60 percent of the positive tests discovered in 2017.
Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia also saw disturbing increases in Lyme diagnoses according to Quest Diagnostics. Tick bites which infect victims with Lyme typically leave a bulls-eye shaped rash at the infection site. Other symptoms include joint pain, weakness in the limbs, and fatigue.
Lyme can be treated with antibiotics if detected early however, severe complications to the nervous system can occur if the bacterial infection is not caught fast enough. To defend against ticks, health officials urge Americans to avoid walking through tall, grassy areas with exposed skin.