After a moderate winter in the United States, will tick populations increase this year?
According to researchers, it is difficult to predict how the insect season will unfold. Scientists say that this year’s mild winter and early snow runoff could result in more ticks earlier than usual and a greater spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
This year, according to Goudarz Molaei, a tick expert for the state of Connecticut, tick populations are increasing. Since January 1, more than 1,000 insects have been submitted for testing, the second-highest number in recent years. The state typically has a high incidence of Lyme disease, which was named after a community in Connecticut.
It will be an above-average year for insect activity and abundance, according to Molaei.
WHAT DISEASES DO TICKS SPREAD?
Infected ticks transmit disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne illness in the United States, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 476,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, can carry pathogens other than those that cause Lyme disease. In addition, they can transmit babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and the Powassan virus disease.
The lone star tick, which primarily inhabits the southern, eastern, and midwestern states, is capable of transmitting ehrlichiosis and Heartland virus disease. Dog parasites in the United States can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks acquire pathogens by feeding on infected wildlife, typically rodents.
WHEN IS THE SEASON FOR TICKS?
Depending on the region, tick season typically lasts from April to October. Ticks are primarily dormant during the frigid winter months and become active as temperatures rise; however, they can also be active on warm winter days.
According to Sam Telford of Tufts University’s school of veterinary medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts, Memorial Day is commonly regarded as the beginning of the season, but this is primarily because this is when people in cold-weather states begin spending more time outdoors.
Cases of Lyme disease typically peak between June and August. Typically, April and May are gentler months, but there are exceptions.
Dr. Bobbi Pritt, who studies tick-borne diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, predicts that ticks in the nymph stage — roughly the size of a poppy seed — could be active early this year. “When winters are mild, we anticipate that ticks will be out and biting humans earlier,” Pritt explained.
WHAT COMPOSES A BAD SEASON?
The trend of tick-borne diseases is difficult to forecast, according to government disease monitors. The number of ticks can vary from region to region, and the accuracy with which different doctors examine and report cases can impact diagnoses.
Telford stated that the changing climate has both positive and negative effects on ticks, as warm, wet weather is advantageous to them, but extreme heat is not.
According to him, ticks could be active early, but a dry, hot summer could also eliminate them. The optimal strategy is to presume that ticks will be extremely active. “Every year should be considered a bad tick year,” he stated.
HOW CAN PEOPLE PROTECT AGAINST TICKS?
There are thankfully many methods to prevent tick bites. The CDC recommends treating garments with 0.5% permethrin-containing products. In tick-infested areas, such as grassy and wooded areas, it is also essential to exercise extra caution.
Using insect repellents and conducting rigorous post-exposure checks are also crucial, according to the CDC. Limiting exposed skin helps prevent insect stings.
The disease can produce fever, chills, fatigue, and pain in the muscles and joints. It is treated with antibiotics, and the majority of patients recover. It can worsen, causing symptoms such as cardiac problems and debilitating pain if left untreated. In the United States, there is no Lyme vaccine on the market, but one is undergoing testing.