CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice’s office confirmed late Wednesday that a blood test shows Justice does have Lyme Disease.
Justice is taking antibiotics.
“I’m feeling better every day,” Gov. Justice said in a statement released by his office. “I always want to first thank God above for all of our blessings. Additionally, I thank my doctors for all they’ve done, and I appreciate all the West Virginians who have expressed their wishes for my speedy recovery.
“I remind all West Virginians, when you go outdoors, monitor yourself for ticks and use insect repellent to stay safe.”
Officials from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources are warning the public to take tick-borne illnesses seriously.
State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad said Lyme disease has been a growing problem that has migrated from the Eastern Panhandle.
“I think we’re seeing it more. I think because of the wildlife around,” Dr. Amjad said. “West Virginia has been seeing a lot more tick-borne illnesses and cases.”
Data from the DHHR reports an increase in confirmed Lyme disease cases from 1,062 in 2021 to 1,542 in 2021, a 32% increase.
There are no vaccines for diseases like Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever or ehrlichiosis, so the only way to prevent infection is to not get bitten in the first place.
When hiking residents should use a repellent that guards against insect bites, including ticks, and is water repellent. Residents should also wear a hat, cover exposed skin, tuck socks into boots, stay on well worn paths and out of tall grass or bushy areas if possible.
Gov. Jim Justice gave his own warning about ticks during his Monday media briefing after being out sick last week.
“The last few days were unusual to say the least. I would have never dreamed that a little tick caused the magnitude of problem that it caused,” Justice said. “I’m really foreign to getting to feeling bad. I can’t recall ever missing a day’s work by being sick.”
What to do with ticks
If a tick is found on the skin it must be removed very carefully and as quickly as possible. Tweezers are the suggested way to remove ticks, using your fingers can result in injecting the toxins into your body. The incubation period for tick-borne illnesses is eight to 14 days.
“Squeeze it’s juices back into you or continue to put that infection saliva in you,” Amjad said. “So, you want to pick it off and try to get the whole body and not squish it on your skin, so you want to take it alive off of you.”
Lyme disease symptoms include chills, fatigue, fever, body aches, headache or a skin rash called erythema migrans. Early treatment options include 14 to 21 day course of oral antibiotics, or in some cases intravenous antibiotics can be prescribed. Seeing doctor as soon as symptoms resent themselves is the surest way to get an accurate diagnosis.
“If they’re not going away or if you develop a rash somewhere, or if a fever persists and you can’t think of any reason why and maybe you’ve been outside recently it’s worth mentioning that to your doctor.”
Early detection is very important, if left untreated Lyme disease can cause chronic joint inflammation, impaired memory, facial palsy, neuropathy or cardiac problems.
“I do think it’s misdiagnosed or missed early on,” Dr. Amjad said. “If someone came complaining of aches, pains, fever and chills and you don’t see a tick bite or have a history of that exposure it’s easy to miss.”
It’s also important to treat pets regularly to prevent ticks or other insects from being brought into the home.
State officials would not confirm the governor was diagnosed with Lyme disease.