Portland, Maine: After a mild winter, will there be an uptick in ticks this year?
Researchers say it is hard to predict how the tick season will play out. This year’s mild winter and early snow melt, though, could mean more ticks earlier than usual and a wider spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, scientists said.
In Connecticut, ticks are showing up in greater numbers this year, according to Goudarz Molaei, a tick expert for the state. Since Jan. 1, more than 1,000 ticks have been sent in for a testing program, and that is the second highest number of submissions in recent years. The state typically sees a lot of Lyme disease, which got its name from a Connecticut town.
“It’s going to be an above average year for tick activity and abundance,” Molaei said.
What diseases do ticks spread?
Infected ticks spread bacteria, viruses and parasites that make people sick. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in the U.S., mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. An estimated 476,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks, can carry more than Lyme-causing bacteria. They can also spread babesiosis, anaplasmosis and Powassan virus disease. The lone star tick, mainly located in southern, eastern and midwestern states, can carry ehrlichiosis and Heartland virus disease. American dog ticks can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks pick up disease-causing germs by biting infected wildlife, usually rodents.
When is tick season?
It varies by region, but tick season generally stretches from April to October. Ticks are mostly dormant during the cold winter months, and emerge as temperatures rise, but can be active on warm winter days, too. Memorial Day is often considered the start of the season.
How can people protect against ticks?
There are numerous ways to prevent tick bites. The CDC recommends treating clothing with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Using repellents and doing thorough checks afterward is also key, the CDC says. Limiting exposed skin also helps avoid bites. There is no Lyme vaccine on the market in the U.S. for people but one is being tested.