Over the last two decades, ticks that transmit Lyme disease have found their way into half of the counties in the nation. Lyme disease cases have tripled, and affects approximately 300,000 Americans every year, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
"Since the late 1990s, the number of counties in the northeastern United States that are considered high-risk for Lyme disease has increased by more than 320%,” said Rebecca Eisen, a researcher at the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "The tick is now established in areas where it was absent 20 years ago."
Although the tick population has increased, there's still a relatively low chance of coming into contact with one. However, health experts advise avoiding areas with thick vegetation, bathing after hiking, and using a strong repellent.
Unfortunately, even these precautions can sometimes fail to protect you from contracting Lyme and other serious diseases. Massachusetts-based author Jeffrey Diamond learned this the painful way.
Diamond, 67, was experiencing headaches, chills, high fever, and shortness of breath, but he chalked it up to bronchitis. Unfortunately, his condition soon worsened, and his wife rushed him to the hospital.
"I had the worst headache I’d ever had and I was feeling really wiped out,” recalled Diamond. "It all came on so quickly and I felt so terrible, I decided waiting another 24 hours might not be smart."
But after tests came up negative, doctors were forced to send him home. The following day, his symptoms were worse than they ever were, so Diamond went to see his GP, who diagnosed him with a rare tick-borne disease that could've been been fatal had it not been caught in time.
What was Diamond suffering from?