Health department officials say 56 cases of Lyme disease have been confirmed in Oneida County so far this year and more than 30 of those were in July alone. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that is transmitted by deer ticks that perch themselves on low hanging grass and vegetation and then attach themselves to a host where they then insert a small piercing element into the skin.

Lyme disease symptoms can copy many other illnesses such as Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a "bulls-eye" rash that that can develop around the bite, but this symptom is not found in 100% of cases.

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The early stages of the disease are usually marked by chills, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle and joint pain and swollen glands. If left untreated severe symptoms can occur that affect the skin, nervous system, joints and/or heart of the individual. The disease can affect people of any age.

"Most tick bites do not result in the transmission of infection, and in the case of Lyme disease only 2-3% of those bitten by a deer tick develop the disease," said Oneida County Health Department Director Phyllis Ellis. "However if you have been bitten by a tick and develop a number of these symptoms, consult your primary healthcare provider."

Some tips to help avoid Lyme disease:

-Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass during warm weather.

-When hiking, cover as much skin as possible and stay in the middle of the trail.

-Use insect repellant that contains at least 20% DEET.

-After coming in from outside, bathe or shower as soon as possible.

-Examine your/children's body thoroughly paying attention to underarms, in and around ears, between the legs, behind the knees and the abdominal area.

-Tumble clothes in a dryer on high for one hour to kill any remaining ticks.

-Regularly check pets for ticks.

Ticks can be carried on clothing and pets and later attach themselves to humans. Dogs can also be infected with Lyme disease and usually show signs of fever, lameness or joint pain. If your dog shows these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

There is no effective vaccine to prevent Lyme disease, so take the necessary steps to keep you and your pets healthy.