Department of Health reminds Pennsylvanians about ticks, warns some symptoms of Lyme disease similar to COVID-19

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Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine reminds Pennsylvanians to take the proper steps to prevent against tick bites and to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease.

Some symptoms of Lyme disease are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Ticks can carry Lyme disease and other dangerous diseases that can be severe if not treated properly.

“Over the past several months, we have seen an increase in the number of emergency department visits related to tick bites,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Some symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever, chills and headache, are similar to symptoms of COVID-19. It is essential that all residents know the proper ways to protect themselves against ticks and are aware of the dangerous diseases they can carry. We want all Pennsylvanians to get outside and be healthy but do so in the safest way possible.”

Preliminary data showed that more than 8,500 cases of Lyme disease were reported here in Pennsylvania back in 2019.

The Department of Health is continuing to compile the complete Lyme disease data and to complete the final numbers for 2019 which should be available within the next month.

Over time if Lyme disease is not treated properly, it can lead to severe symptoms that affect the heart, nervous system and joints.

Anyone can be at risk for getting a tick anytime they are outside in areas such as wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Ticks can be found even in one’s own back yard.

It is important to take steps to decrease your chances of getting bitten by ticks.

To reduce your chances of a tick bite:

  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter;
  • Use a repellent that contains at least 20% DEET;
  • Wear light-colored clothing;
  • Conduct full-body tick checks on yourself and on your pets after spending time outdoors; and
  • Take a bath or shower within 2 hours after coming indoors.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a tick, make sure to monitor the area for any kinds of symptoms and contact your local health care provider immediately.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include the following:

  • A red, swollen bulls-eye shape rash;
  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Headache;
  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle and joint aches; and
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

Early stages of Lyme disease such as the ones mentioned above may appear in as few as two days or as long as 30 days after exposure.

The later stage symptoms such as arthritis, heart and neurological issues could appear months later.

Reported illnesses have ranged from people with few to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.

As mentioned some symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to COVID-19 and can include the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

For more information on ticks and Lyme disease, or on mosquitoes and West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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