People affected by Lyme disease must be doubly cautious in guarding against coronavirus, according to a local Lyme outreach expert.
Michele Cassetori, vice president for education and outreach in the Pennsylvania Lyme Resource Network, said people with Lyme “definitely have to be cautious,” especially as they begin to spend more time outdoors on tasks such as gardening.
There have been positive test results for coronavirus in people with Lyme disease, Cassetori said, but no deaths have been reported.
Lyme disease is commonly spread by ticks. Chances of being bitten by a tick are highest during nymph tick season (young deer ticks) which runs from May to August.
Free testing of ticks is available, Cassetori said, through the Dr. Jane Huffman Wildlife Genetics Institute (DNA Lab) near the campus of East Stroudsburg University. The genetic lab is housed in a separate and secure building.
The lab staff uses state–of–the–art genotyping equipment to identify the tick species, life stage, sex, and engorgement measurement. “We are capable of testing for 17 different tick-borne pathogens, which are each associated with one or more species of tick…(depicting) the common name, scientific name, type of organism, and potential tick vector, of each of these pathogens,” the lab’s website notes.
Results are available in 72 hours and can provide tick-bite victims and physician with information that can assist in diagnostic and treatment decisions, the lab said.
The lab has remained open during the pandemic and is coping with a shortage of reagents. Because of that shortage, no animals can be tested at this time.
Cassetori said anyone finding a tick should use tweezers to carefully remove it from their body. Place the tick in a plastic bag The lab’s web site at TickLab.org gives directions for ordering testing and obtaining results.
The lab has been seeing an increase in tick submissions, Cassetori said. “There are a lot of ticks out there. Ticks remain a significant problem.”
Cassetori leads the NEPA Lyme Support Group that meets at Misericordia University. Because of the corona virus epidemic, meetings have been canceled but Cassetori is setting up a virtual on-line group. Details will be announced soon, she said.
The PA Lyme Network has begun using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and its web site to provide information on the ticks-corona virus threat, Cassetori said.
“Even in your backyard, there is a danger from ticks. Be cautious and watch out for ticks,” Cassetori advised.
Pennsylvania is first in the nation in Lyme disease.
The most common symptoms of Lyme disease: Fatigue, Swollen joints, Rred “bullseye” rash, although the rash does not always appear.
The range of symptoms for COVID-19: Fever, Cough, Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Chills, Repeated shaking with chills, Muscle pain, Headache, Sore throat, New loss of taste or smell.
Sources: PALyme Network and Center for Disease Control