Doctors predict Lyme disease epidemic this year

Posted at 2:51 AM, Jun 26, 2017

There is a high risk of Lyme disease in the U.S. this year, doctors say.

Reports say its due to a bumper crop of acorns produced by oak trees. They are eaten by mice, chipmunks and other seed predators carrying ticks with the disease, helping spread it through the Northeast and Midwest.

For some states, the warmer winter weather at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 fueled the potential for a Lyme disease epidemic.

In the south, there's concern some Florida regions could be possible hotbeds due to the warm weather, wildlife and suburban sprawl in rural areas.

It's a tick bite that will spread Lyme disease to humans. The World Health Organization says to look for skin lesions that have an expanding ring form.

Pasco County, Florida resident Geane Gottschall loves her deer. Twenty of emerge from the forest next to her Wesley Chapel housing development.

She feeds the deer corn and takes pictures of her two young daughters with the animals.

"They come every day," Gottschall said to WFTS in Tampa, Florida. "They get so close to me, maybe 5, 10 feet."

The deer are lovely. They also could be dangerous.

Gottschall had never heard of Lyme disease, which is spread via tick bites. The ticks live on deer, mice and even birds.

After a tick bites a person, symptoms of Lyme can range from aches and pains to lethargy and memory loss.

Physicians still do not understand everything about the debilitating ailment. Many doctors are predicting a full epidemic this summer with a record 400,000 cases nationwide.

The most visible tell-tale sign of Lyme disease is a bull's-eye rash. If a person catches the disease early, it can be treated with antibiotics.

"If you do not see the rash, and do not go to the doctor right away, it's very difficult to make a diagnosis of Lyme disease," said Dr. Erfan Albakri, Florida Neurovascular Institute.

In later stages, Lyme disease can mask itself as anything from anxiety to Alzheimer's.

Those who live near a wooded or grassy area should check for ticks daily. Also, most insect repellant works against ticks.

For more information on Lyme disease, visit