CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There have been more cases of Lyme Disease in West Virginia over the last five years, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

The DHHR issued a Health Advisory Tuesday to West Virginia healthcare providers, hospitals and other healthcare facilities to warn them about the “dramatic increase” in Lyme Disease cases.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner for the state DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, said there have been hundreds of more cases since 2012.

“In 2012, there were about 97 cases reported to us with Lyme Disease,” he said. “Today, we’re seeing over 580 cases in West Virginia as of this month.”

Gupta said the cases were reported in about 10 counties in 2012. Currently, the disease is being reported in 52 counties, which is almost all of West Virginia.

The state is seeing those increases particularly in the Northern and Eastern Panhandles.

Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

The DHHR is urging people who go out into the woods to wear protective clothing and to check for any tick bites.

“If you’re going out immediately into the woods for a variety or reasons or just in your backyard, just take proper precautions. After you come back, make sure that if there is a tick on you, get it removed and taken care of in a timely manner,” Gupta said.

If the tick is removed quickly, Gupta said a person most likely will not catch the disease. He said it’s also not contagious.

“The tick has to be on you for a few days before it can transmit the disease,” he said.

Gupta said Lyme Disease causes a rash, often in a bull’s-eye pattern. Flu-like symptoms, joint pain and weakness in the limbs may also occur.

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