Lyme disease on the rise in York, statewide


It was either get help or get a divorce.

That's what Bob Stibitz's wife, Wanda, told him when he started acting erratically.

"I was more irritable, more snappy," he said. "She noticed big time."

The York Township resident was later diagnosed with Lyme disease, an inflammatory illness commonly found in ticks.

Wanda Stibitz also contracted it.

To link up with others, the couple has been actively involved in the York Lyme Disease Support group, a local nonprofit that is not only active, but growing.

Pennsylvania continues to see a surge in Lyme disease cases, according to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

For the past five years, the state has lead the nation in reported Lyme disease cases.

The 2014 Lyme disease report released in June by the Department of Health showed there were 7,400 cases of Lyme disease in the state, compared with 5,900 in 2013, a 25 percent increase.

York County alone reported 304 cases last year. That's up from 227 in 2013.

Unreported cases: Karen Murphy, the Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary, is urging more awareness.

"With many cases going unreported, it is critical that we provide people with information about this disease," she said in the release.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and joint pain, and in about 85 percent of cases, a bullseye rash will appear around the bite.

When detected early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics and late-stage complications can be avoided. Left untreated, the disease can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.

Stibitz and his wife still wonder how they contracted it. They enjoy an outdoor lifestyle and are active hikers.

He said he's thankful that he and his wife were able to find a support group to connect with others.

"We are meeting new people every week," he said.

The first line of defense against Lyme is to take precautions in the outdoors by using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants, checking for — and promptly and properly removing — any ticks, and showering shortly after exposure.

For more information about the York Lyme Disease Support Group, visit