Ticks are usually a bigger scourge in the warmer months as humans and pets alike spend more time outdoors and have a greater chance of bringing home these insects. But given a warm February, ticks appear to get an early head start this year, even when spring has just begun.
Along with an earlier, worse tick season is a foreseen greater prevalence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne conditions in different regions.
Early Arrival Of Tick Season
"Spring is the worst time because the nymphs come out, and the nymphs versus an adult are very small, and they can bite you, but they are just much, much harder to see," Dr. Christopher Grace, infectious disease specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, told WCAX.
Lyme disease, among the most common kinds of vector-borne diseases in the country, has made an early appearance in the East Coast. And experts pointed to climate change for the dangerous trend.
According to Dr. John Aucott, who heads the Johns Hopkins Rheumatology Lyme Disease Research Center in Baltimore, June and July are the usual months when Lyme disease arrives. During this window, the ticks — still at an undeveloped phase — can move from a wild host to dogs and humans.
Climate events such as rising temperatures are deemed one of the strongest reasons behind the reproduction of mice, which are home for the disease-carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, the tick spreading infections to humans.
The cutting down of trees, too, appear to result in fragmented forests, which feed into conditions supporting the multiplication of mice.
Ticks, the tiny eight-legged creatures feeding on blood, are also now living year-round since the last couple of years.
“I’ve seen more ticks on dogs in the last two and a half years than I have in the last 15 years of practice. They’re really becoming a hazard,” said veterinarian Clayton Greenway, citing climate change and urban expansion as factors behind their increase in numbers.
Not Just Lyme
In the last half-century, scientists found at least a dozen new tick-borne conditions. There’s anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and a Lyme-similar bacterium in the Northeast, while the Midwest deals with concerns like Lyme-like Heartland virus and Bourbon virus.
The South is documented to be battling Southern tick-associated rash illness, while the West has detected a new kind of spotted fever.
Powassan virus, which was named after a Canadian town and discovered in 1958, is particularly concerning for experts given it’s a deadly one transmitted by the local blacklegged tick. It attacks the brain, swells it up, and leads to a 50 percent likelihood of permanent neurological damage even upon recovery.
How To Stay Protected
One can implement ways to address tick bites properly or prevent them in the first place, as well as spot Lyme disease early on.
People affected with Lyme suffer from locally erupting rashes, swollen knees, and facial paralysis. It is a difficult disease to treat and, when left untreated, may trigger severe conditions such as memory loss, chronic arthritis, and irregularities in heart rhythm.
When removing a tick during a bite, it is important to leave the creature’s body intact. Avoid squeezing it or lighting a match under its body. Afterward, you may take a picture of the tick and send it to the TickEncounter Resource Center for identification.
If you are living in a high-risk area, visit a doctor if you see the notable red rash showing up. It may not be the same famous shape all the time; it could also be normal-looking that continues to grow.