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Friday, October 7, 2016 | The Rivertowns Enterprise

To Your Health! | Page 3A

Clock ticking when it comes to ticks new and old



fever. A headache. Nausea. Body aches. Confusion. And often a telltale bull’s-eye rash. “Have you been hiking?” the doctor asks. While summer is prime time for ticks, Westchester County physicians who specialize in treating tick-borne illnesses still see patients who come in with symptoms like those described above into early fall. What patients have often brushed off for several days as flu or general malaise often turns out to be Lyme disease — or one of the other tick-borne illnesses known to occur locally, including ehrlichiosis (now called anaplasmosis) and babesiosis. More often than not, these patients don’t even know they have been bitten by ticks. “Seventy percent of Lyme patients have no recollection of a tick bite,” said Dr. Gary P. Wormser, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. “But all have a recollection of potential tick exposure,” most often a hike through the woods or other outdoor and off-road adventure, even those in your own front lawn. It is a similar story at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, where Dr. Debra Spicehandler, M.D., co-chief of infectious diseases, says she sees a lot of sicker patients who come in with later stages of undiagnosed Lyme, which usually occurs one to two weeks after a tick comes off or was removed. If not treated in the

first week to 10 days, she said, Lyme can lead to hospital visits. “People say, ‘I didn’t have a tick bite’ or ‘I don’t have a rash,’” Spicehandler said. “You don’t always get a rash, and sometimes it’s in a place where you can’t see it,” like the scalp, she said. Wormser has seen patients with Lyme disease symptoms who don’t know they’ve

been bitten by ticks — until he finds other ticks on them that are unrelated to their current symptoms, along with a hidden bull’s-eye rash. The challenge in diagnosing often involves “taking a relevant history and getting a bigger picture” of potential exposures to ticks, said Dr. Waseem Shahid, M.D., an urgent care physician at Apple

Medical in Dobbs Ferry, who sees patients on a weekly basis with tick-borne illnesses during the season. Between 2011-13, there were nearly 1,100 confirmed incidents of Lyme disease in Westchester County, according to the New York State Department of Health. The actual numbers, though, are thought to be much higher. In fact, cases of Lyme more than doubled in Westchester County between 2013 and 2014, when 746 cases were reported to the CDC. In 2014, there were 194 cases of Lyme in Westchester according to the New York State Department of Health. The best way to avoid Lyme disease, all three physicians say, is to avoid tick bites. All three adhere to the age-old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” “It’s easiest, but it is hard to do in your practical life,” acknowledged Shahid, who recommends long pants tucked into socks, long-sleeve shirts and treating exposed skin (but not face or hands) with insect repellents containing DEET whenever hiking. But nothing — even covering most of your exposed body parts — will ever be 100 percent effective in preventing tick bites, he said. Shahid said his best advice to those in Westchester County hoping to avoid ticks is, “Be vigilant.” “I warn people to take precautions,” Spicehandler said. “The most important thing is to know that ticks are there — to Continued on page 11A

Rivertowns Enterprise To Your Health! 2016  
Rivertowns Enterprise To Your Health! 2016