Klempner on how to prevent Lyme disease

Number of cases on the rise throughout New England this season

By Bryan Goodchild

UMass Medical School Communications

May 20, 2014

Spring is here, and with warmer weather comes increased risk for contracting Lyme disease from a deer tick bite. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that annual cases in Massachusetts have more than doubled since 2003.

“When the ticks are active and seeking a host to be on is when you catch the disease from the bite of a tick,” said national Lyme disease expert Mark Klempner, MD. “They are most active in the summer and spring.” Dr. Klempner is executive vice chancellor for MassBiologics and professor of medicine, and has conducted extensive research on Lyme disease.

Deer tick populations have increased and are difficult to eradicate. Tick population growth in New England states is attributed to warmer winters in recent years, with this year’s deep snows insulating rather than killing dormant ticks. But steps can be taken to reduce the likelihood of getting bit in the first place, and to identify suspected infections so that treatment can be initiated as soon as possible.

“You can do things to prevent Lyme disease both personally and in your environment that will reduce your risk just by knowledge of the behavior of ticks,” Klempner emphasized. He urges people to check themselves for tick bites after they have been in settings where they might have been exposed, and to clear brush and debris from their properties because that’s where ticks like to live.

Watch this Expert’s Corner video to learn more about Lyme disease risk, its rising incidence and what individuals can do to protect themselves.