This Map Shows Where Lyme Disease Has Concentrated Over The Past Few Years

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Spring and summer are supposed to be all fun and games, but our friend Dr. Ian Smith is here to remind us that we have to keep potential health dangers in mind, too!

(Good looking out, doc!)

For starters, we have to be wary of ticks, as the little pests could potentially cause Lyme disease.

"Lyme disease is a disease that is very difficult to diagnose sometimes," the doc explains. "It could be very serious [and] it's transmitted via a tick bite."

"Over the last -- let's say -- 25 [to] 30 years," he continues, "they've seen a 300% increase in well-known counties of Lyme disease."

And *this* is how it all goes down.

"The tick is the carrier of the bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi," Dr. Ian explains. This is the black-legged tick also known as the deer tick. The deer tick is the host ... carrying this bacterium in their bloodstream. The tick [then] goes and bites the deer and ingests that pathogen or bacterium."

Now, while the tick can live with the bacterium, Dr. Ian says, once it hops onto a blade of grass or lurks in the woods and hops on *us,* there could be a problem.

"The tick is looking for a place to nest," the doctor says, referring to exposed areas of the body.

"While it's taking its blood meal," he continues, "it's giving you that bacteria, which causes Lyme disease."

Before you panic about a bite, though, Dr. Ian points out that there are "several hundred species of ticks" -- and not *all* of them will cause Lyme disease.

"Not all these ticks are Lyme disease," he explains, "but they're different types of diseases."

(That's why Dr. Ian suggests freezing a removed tick in a plastic baggie, so that if you start experiencing symptoms, you can bring the tick to the doctor to make your diagnosis easier.)

And while he says that every state has ticks (so always check yourself!), there are certain areas of the country where they're more prevalent, as you can see in this Centers for Disease Control and Protection map the doctor shared with us:

Rachael Ray Show

"We've always talks about the Northeast," Dr. Ian says. "But we're also seeing more cases in the upper Midwest."

The good news is Dr. Ian claims that a vaccine for Lyme disease is in the works!

"There's a fine line between killing the tick and also causing harm to you," he tells Rach of the challenge, "so you have to find that balance. They're working on that."

For now, protect yourself against the little rascals with bug repellent and long clothes, the doctor suggests!

And if you *do* end up finding a tick on your body, here's what to do and how to properly remove it


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