Lyme disease from ticks has tripled in U.S. over the last decade

Liz McNally wears a protective suit as she checks for ticks in her yard. According to the CDC, Lyme disease has tripled in the U.S. over the last decade. (WHAM photo)

Brighton, N.Y. (WHAM) – A recent report from the CDC shows Lyme disease has tripled in the U.S. between 2004 and 2016. This is the time of year when people are most at risk.

It’s a concern Liz McNally of Brighton takes seriously. This time of year, she takes extra measures to stay safe.

McNally zipped up in a protective white suit to shield against tick bites. She was getting ready to look for ticks in her yard. She dragged a white cloth on the ground, and in a matter of minutes, she found one.

The tick was no bigger than a sesame seed.

“It’s tiny,” McNally said.

Now 29, McNally was diagnosed with Lyme disease at the age of 15.

"I didn't get very ill until I was 13 years old,” she said. “I woke up one night with flu-like symptoms, high fever. I was doubled over with abdominal pain and I never really got better from there."

She suspects she had the illness as young as 5, but said during high school she was at her worst.

"The biggest symptom for me was the fatigue,” McNally said. “I would have to plan my day around taking a shower, because that took so much effort for me. Taking a shower was like a marathon for me."

Her mother Janet McNally is also living with Lyme disease. Janet said it got to one point where she couldn't ignore her symptoms any longer.

"It was just grueling fatigue,” she said. “One day I was driving down my street and couldn't find my house. I had lived there for years and could not find my house."

The number of local cases keeps growing.

According to the Monroe County Health Department, it's now seeing 80 to 90 confirmed cases per year. That’s about a 30 percent increase from a few years ago, and the actual number of people getting it is likely higher.

Rochester Regional Health Infectious Disease Physician Emil Lesho said prevention is key. He said to wear light color clothing, and long sleeve shirts and pants that are tight fitting around ankles and wrists. Dr. Lesho also said to use insect repellant with DEET.

Being part of a local support group, Rochester Lyme Group, helps the McNallys and others manage their symptoms.

Sheila Foley, a member of Rochester Lyme Group, has had the disease for five years.

"I'm not a 100 percent,” she said. “I have good days and bad days. I get a lot of fatigue still and a lot of nervous system issues and endocrine system issues."

Though some days are a challenge, they said there is life after Lyme.

"I have my life back,” said Liz McNally. “So much better than I was before."

The Rochester Lyme Group is holding an event this Saturday, June 9 from 2-5 p.m. at I-Square in Irondequoit. The hope is raise to awareness, empower people and help those with chronic Lyme disease learn to live with it.

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