NEW YORK CITY — Lyme disease made more New Yorkers sick in 2015 than any year before, with Staten Island taking the brunt of cases.
Data shows a seven percent rise in the amount of people affected citywide.
There were 604 people confirmed to have the disease citywide in 2015, an increase from 567 in 2014, according to the Department of Health. Staten Island had 63 percent more confirmed Lyme disease cases, from 55 cases in 2014 to 89 in 2015.
Lyme disease has become more prevalent in Staten Island due to the population boom of white-tailed deer in the borough. The illness is spread by ticks that live on the animals.
In previous years, most Lyme disease cases were contracted out of state. But in 2015, more than half of the Staten Island patients reported they hadn't left the city, Borough President James Oddo said.
"These data confirm what we have suspected for some time — that due to the increase in white-tailed deer on Staten Island, the incidence rate of Lyme disease — carried by black-legged ticks — is also rising," Oddo said in a statement.
Brooklyn and Queens were the only other boroughs to have an increase in Lyme disease cases last year. Brooklyn had the highest number of cases with 214 in 2015, according to the health department.
The Department of Health partnered with Oddo this summer to create an awareness campaign about the illnesses, part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's "Deer Management Plan," to help combat the rising rates of them in the city.
"We want Staten Islanders to take advantage of their beautiful parks and wooded areas, but we remind them and all New Yorkers to check for ticks and take other simple steps to protect yourself from Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases," health department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement.
"We continue to work closely with Borough President Oddo to increase public awareness about Lyme disease, and the administration has begun an extensive effort to reduce the deer population on Staten Island."
Lyme disease causes symptoms including fever, fatigue and a rash, officials said. Lyme disease can be treated if caught early but can lead to arthritis, memory loss and sleep problems if left untreated, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.
To continue their awareness campaign about the disease, Oddo and the health department will host a free "Lyme Disease Awareness Forum" on Aug. 15 where doctors and scientists will give information about the illness and the ticks that carry them.
The forum will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Berniknow JCC, 1466 Manor Road.