Lyme disease is still on the rise in the New River Valley, especially in Floyd County, and officials are trying to educate the public to slow the growth of the disease.
“It’s really tough,” said Floyd County resident Kirsten Griffiths of Lyme disease. “It’s sort of an endurance test.”
Griffiths is all too familiar with the troubles caused by ticks. She and her three children all have Lyme disease.
“Your whole family dynamic just changes,” she said. “Everyone’s exhausted. Someone’s achy, someone’s out of commission, weird rashes.”
Griffiths said she and her eldest daughter visited several doctors before being diagnosed. While her family members originally contracted the disease in other places, she said, some of them were reinfected in Floyd County, where they live. And they quickly discovered they weren’t alone.
“I live here at the EcoVillage, said Floyd County resident Margie Scott. “There’s 12 people that live here. There’s six of us that have been definitely diagnosed or potentially carry all of the symptoms.”
Margie Scott started the Floyd County Lyme Support Network in 2015, which she said attracted more than 100 people in its first year.
While the New River Valley has the highest proportion of people diagnosed with Lyme disease than in any other part of the state, it’s especially a problem in Floyd County. According to the New River Health District, Floyd County has the highest rate of diagnosed cases statewide.
“The environment is conducive to the ticks that transmit Lyme disease kind of thriving,” said Jason Deese, district epidemiologist for the New River Health District.
A more aggressive deer tick found in higher elevations and milder winters may be some factors to blame for the continued growth of Lyme disease, Deese said. In addition, doctors have become more aware of the symptoms and are diagnosing the disease more easily, he added.
The New River Health District is now trying to educate the public on prevention, Deese said.
“Things like checking yourself every 24 hours for ticks whether you need to or not,” he said. “Checking your pets for ticks whether you think you need to or not.”
“We’re very diligent about tick checks,” Kirsten Griffiths said. “Unfortunately, we can’t go play in the tall grass. Nice thing about Floyd County is you have outside opportunities even when you have to be careful.”
The New River Health District is also working to make more people aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease, Deese said. Those include a rash, muscle pain or tingling in the arms and legs after a tick bite, he added. He suggests seeing a doctor if you have any of those symptoms.