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CBS2 Exclusive: Staten Island Woman Diagnosed With Spinal Meningitis After Being Bitten By Tick

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A cluster of Lyme disease cases on Staten Island is causing concern after one woman wound up with spinal meningitis because of a tick bite.

CBS2's Brian Conybeare spoke exclusively with the patient, Dee Vandenburg, who wants everyone to be aware of the dangers – even in the city.

The growing deer population has long been a problem on Staten Island.

"We have deer that walk down our street like they own it," Vandenburg said. "They're beautiful, but they're not so pretty anymore."

She was bitten by a deer tick, which her doctors say infected her with Lyme disease. Since she went undiagnosed for four months, it developed into spinal meningitis.

"It's the most excruciating pain I've ever had in my life," she told Conybeare.

After about two weeks in the hospital, Vandenburg now has an IV port in her arm to administer daily doses of heavy duty antibiotics.

She lives south of Hylan Boulevard near Wolfe's Pond Park. Drone Force 2 captured images of the open spaces in the park along the south shore of Staten Island and the densely wooded area, where more and more deer live and breed, despite a $2 million sterilization program launched by the city last year.

Vandenburg says six other people in the Hugenot Beach neighborhood have also been diagnosed with tick borne diseases this summer, and something has to be done.

"Check yourself for ticks," Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-N.Y.) said.

On Wednesday, the congressman announced a new bill for a pilot program to track deer ticks nationwide and even allow people to send pictures of ticks they pull off their bodies to professional scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"That professional would respond within 72 hours with information about the type of tick and the risks of what diseases they may incur from that tick," he explained.

They would also tell you what questions to ask your doctor, Conybeare reported. That's something Vandenburg and her neighbors certainly could have used.

Experts say you should always use insect repellent when outdoors and check yourself and your kids for ticks when you go back inside.

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