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Lyme moving into WNY in larger numbers, along with its cousins babesiosis & anaplasmosis

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Remember: long pants tucked into your socks, long sleeves and DEET repellant and hope scientists can figure out a test and a vaccine for Lyme disease and for a bunch of less pronounceable names of tick-borne diseases.

The diseases are little known ailments like babeosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Some occur a lot and some are more medical textbook diseases.

Lyme was first identified in Connecticut and first traced by New York scientists working with a sample from Long Island. There are two problems with it: lack of a standard diagnosis test and no vaccination before showing the characteristic bite mark of the deer tick.

Bryon Backenson, deputy director for the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control for the state Health Department, said there is a lot more than Lyme Disease around.

"Lyme disease is the most prevalent, the one that has the highest numbers. We routinely see about 8,000 or so cases of Lyme disease that meet certain criteria for us to report to CDC," Backenson said. "But there's others as well. Anaplasmosis is one that we see about 1,000 cases of. Babesiosis is a parasitic disease, a little like malaria, that we wind up seeing about 500 cases of."

Backenson said there are likely 10 times as many Lyme cases as the standard system counts. He said there are scientists trying to find a better diagnostic test than just working from a check list and there are other scientists trying to develop a vaccine.

"Are there ways to make a vaccine to tick saliva? So in other words, that tick starts to bite you and that tick would encounter antibodies to tick saliva and that tick would wind up falling off," Backenson said. "This thing is way, way down the road, but it's something that you might think of as newer technology."

Meanwhile, ticks with Lyme are moving into Western New York in larger numbers. However, he said there will be fewer deer ticks in this area this season.

"The area furthest west in the state is the area that is kind of the newest to Lyme Disease, for that matter," he said. "So in some ways, you're going to see probably fewer deer ticks, fewer deer ticks infected with the pathogens that can cause Lyme and these other diseases in the Buffalo area than you would, say, in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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