This may be an especially bad summer for Lyme disease, according to disease ecologists. This disease is caused by a spirochete transmitted by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Lyme disease is no longer restricted to New England. It is spreading far and wide! Learn how to protect yourself.
Why Will 2021 Be a Bad Summer?
Why are experts worried that 2021 might be intense? The spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, includes white-footed mice as well as white-tailed deer and black-legged ticks in its life cycle. There are lots of mice and deer available to ticks. A mild winter could mean that tick season could be especially bad this year.
A drought in New England led to a drop in the number of ticks last year, but this year is expected to be a worrisome tick season. Maine has already experienced a dramatic increase in tick-related emergency visits compared to this time last year.
An early report from Connecticut suggests that ticks there are also more numerous. Lyme disease, after all, is named for the town of Lyme Connecticut, where it was first identified in 1976.
Lyme Disease Is Spreading:
Lyme disease has now spread from New England to the upper mid-west, with some cases as far south as Florida. It has also been identified in California and Washington state. There is a good likelihood it will be a bad summer for Lyme in nearly half of the country.
Approximately 300,000 US residents may be infected every year. Lyme disease can cause serious complications if it is left untreated, but prompt treatment with antibiotics can usually eliminate the pathogen.
The blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, spreads Borrelia burgdorferi in the US. This tick can also transmit anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan virus disease.
Why You Should Care:
People who have come down with Lyme disease will tell you that this condition can become chronic and do major damage to the body. Here is a podcast with two physicians who themselves contracted Lyme disease:
Show 1081: What Do You Need to Know About Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease isn’t always easy to diagnose, and it can cause serious long-lasting damage. How can you be alert for this tick-borne infection?
Experts recommend daily tick checks and removal of any ticks with tweezers. Wearing insect repellent is smart when you are out in the woods, but remember that deer ticks happily hang out in yards as well.
That’s why we are big proponents of gaiters! These go on over your shoes and several inches up your pants or legs. They are treated with permethrin so the ticks are discouraged before they can start climbing. Here is an article with lots of details about gaiters and other strategies for preventing tick bites:
Preventing Tick Bites By Wearing Gaiters
Tick bites lead to some very nasty diseases. That’s why preventing tick bites is really important when you go outside. Find out why gaiters can be helpful.
Young ticks are tiny, no bigger than a poppy seed, so the tick check needs to be extremely thorough. Parents should check their children.
When you find a tick, don’t freak out or use flames or Vaseline. Just use a tick removal tool or a simple tweezer to pull it straight out, gripping it as close to the skin as possible.
If you develop a rash or fever, be sure to tell the doctor about your tick bite. See the doctor if you have such symptoms even if you don’t remember a tick biting you. In a bad summer for Lyme disease, it’s better to be cautious.