Tickborne Illnesses Return With Summer in Pittsfield

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The Pittsfield Board of Health heard updates from the public health nurse.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With the onset of summer, illnesses from ticks are back.
"The tickborne illness continues to be rampant out there," the city's public health nurse, Mary Jane Sackett, said. 
Between April 1 and June 24, the city suspects there have been two cases of human granulocytic anaplasmosis and four cases of Lyme disease. One other case of Lyme disease has been confirmed.
But those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, said Sackett, who believes five to 10 times as many cases aren't reported. Last year there were 74 confirmed cases. She advocates for residents to tick-proof their yard and be vigilant in avoiding them.
In that same time period, Sackett said three cases of campylobacteriosis, which is a bacterial infection caused by ingesting contaminated food, were recorded. She also confirmed a single case of streptococcus.
Of most interest is two cases of the highly contagious pertussis, better known as whooping cough. One of those cases was confirmed; the other is just suspected at this point. Sackett said on Tuesday she received a third notification of a suspected case.
She also reported that there seems to be an increase of tuberculosis in the area. Right now there are three active cases, she said, with one being new this quarter. In the last five years, she has only seen two cases.
"It does seem like it is up," she said, adding that if someone is showing symptoms, they "can't assume that it is not tuberculosis."
While mosquitoes are out, and in great numbers in some areas, the city hasn't seen any illnesses related to the annoying insects. In recent years, the city has found West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis in samples of mosquitoes. Only one case of illness from mosquitoes has been found in the county since the mosquito project began but the Board of Health has been attempting to lower the risk.
Christopher Horton, superintendent of the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project, said the group just sent the second batch of samples to the state lab this week. The first batch hadn't confirmed any disease but Horton says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mosquitoes.
"There was a marked increase in mosquitoes this week," he said. "We actually had our traps in South County last night and we got really high numbers ... the numbers are up."
The project is recommending that there be adulticide sprayings in some areas of Pittsfield to shrink those numbers. Those areas are at the end of West Street and near Red Maple Swamp off Elm Street. Also eyed for treatment is the area near Wahconah Park and Doyle Field. Both areas see lots of human traffic and are near "West Nile sites." 
"We want to prepare for that and keep the numbers down," Horton said.
On the southwest side of the city near Interprint, there are fewer mosquitoes than in the past, Horton said, which is an area that has seen high levels of the West Nile Virus.

Tags: board of health,   lyme disease,   pertussis,   public health,   West Nile,   

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