Roundup: Lyme Disease, Kids' Screen Time and Rabies Alert

Lyme Disease From Ticks has Spread to All 50 States, Report Finds

The tick-borne illness Lyme disease has been detected in all 50 states and cases continue to rise, according to a new report from Quest Diagnostics, the New Jersey-based operator clinical labs.

After reviewing more than six million lab test results that did not identify individuals, Quest Diagnostics found that outside of the northeastern U.S., which is historically associated with Lyme disease, California and Florida saw the largest absolute increases in positive test results. California found 483 infected patients in 2017, a 194.5 percent increase over 2015 levels. Florida found 501 infected patients in 2017, a 77 percent increase over 2015 levels.

“Lyme disease is a bigger risk to more people in the United States than ever before,” said Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., senior medical director for Quest Diagnostics and head of the company’s Health Trends research program. “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.”

Spread by tick bites from infected black-legged and deer ticks, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium “Borrelia burgdorferi” that causes more than 300,000 illnesses each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.

According to the Quest Diagnostics report, Lyme disease remains most prevalent in the Northeastern United States. Pennsylvania and the six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) account for 61 percent of the total number of positive Lyme disease test results found in the United States in 2017.

With 10,001 cases in 2017, Pennsylvania saw the most positive Lyme disease test results of any state in the nation, and nearly as many found in all New England states combined (11,549).

To protect yourself from tick bits, follow these steps if you’re going out into the woods or other grassy areas:

  • Wear long clothing that covers the skin
  • Tuck pant legs into your socks
  • Use insect repellent on any exposed skin
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks stand out


Digital ‘Screen Time’ Linked to Childhood Obesity in New Analysis from American Heart Association

A scientific statement published this week by the American Heart Association (AHA) finds that smartphones, tablets, TVs and other screen-based digital devices are making kids more sedentary – and that behavior is linked to being overweight and obesity in young people.

“The nature of screen time has dramatically changed – while watching television has gone down, overall screen time has gone up,” Tracie Barnett, Ph.D., an epidemiologist specializing in pediatric obesity and a lead author of the advisory, told ABC News. “We wanted to see how that would influence patterns of sedentary behavior. Even though we have new screen-based recreational devices now, we are just as sedentary.”

According to a recent, separate analysis from the nonprofit Common Sense Media, 5- to 8-year-olds spend nearly three hours a day watching TV and using smartphones, tablets or other devices. A 2017 Nielsen survey of more than 4,000 parents found that about 20 percent of 10-year-olds have their own smartphone, that percentage is likely increasing.

While the AHA’s advisory statement stipulates that “further evidence” is needed to establish detailed guidelines, “we suggest that televisions and other recreational screen-based devices be removed from bedrooms and absent during meal times.”

The AHA statement adds: “Daily device-free social interactions and outdoor play should be encouraged. In addition, parents/guardians should be supported to devise and enforce appropriate screen time regulations and to model healthy screen-based behaviors.”

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Rabies Alert Extended for Southwest Area of Miami-Dade

A third raccoon has tested positive for rabies in the same Southwest Kendall area, prompting the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Miami-Dade County to extend a rabies alert for another 60 days.

The area to which this alert applies is defined by the following boundaries:

  • North at SW 152nd Street to South at SW 187th Street, and
  • East at SW 117th Avenue to West at SW 137th Avenue.

The DOH Miami-Dade is working with Miami-Dade Animal Services to identify any individuals who may have been exposed to the rabid animal.

Rabies is a nervous-system disease that can be fatal to warm-blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for people exposed to rabies is rabies-specific injections, which should be initiated as soon as possible after exposure, and rabies immunization.

A rabid animal could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against the disease. The DOH in Miami-Dade says all domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies, and people should avoid contact with wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.

County health officials advise residents and visitors to take the following precautions to avoid being exposed to rabies:

  • Keep all pets’ rabies vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Supervise pets so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If a pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance immediately and call Miami-Dade Animal Services at 3-1-1.
  • Call 3-1-1 to report any stray dogs in your neighborhood. Private property owners can hire a wildlife trapper to remove nuisance wildlife.
  • Do not handle or feed wild animals.
  • Keep garbage secured and pet food inside to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • Avoid contact with stray and feral animals, and do not adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children not to handle unfamiliar animals – wild or domestic – even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering homes and buildings where they could come in contact with people and pets.
  • Seek medical attention if bitten or scratched by a wild or domestic animal, and call the DOH-Miami Dade at 305-324-2400 to report the injury.

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