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Citizen Scientists Release Study On New Hampshire Tick-Borne Disease

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A new study by BeBop Labs reveals an unsavory truth: tick bites occur all-year round, not just during spring and summer as previously assumed.

The citizen science study based in Plymouth claimed that the threat of tick-borne diseases decreases during winter, but it does not disappear entirely unless the ground is covered with snow. The conclusion was drawn after an analysis of about 1,654 ticks sent by volunteers in the past year. Of the total number, 1,100 were dog ticks and 554 were black-legged ticks often found in deer.

The findings were released in the website of the nonprofit group.

Tick-Borne Diseases In New Hampshire

The analysis found that between one-quarter and one-half of the total ticks collected all year round can cause at least one disease, usually Lyme. Meanwhile, between 5 and 10 percent of those sampled carried the pathogen anaplasmosis.

Babesia, which is usually linked to black-legged ticks, appeared in samples from some counties, but not the others. For example, in Merrimack and Rockingham County, about 12.5 percent of the ticks carried the pathogen.

The study also combined public data from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Lab of Medical Zoology and Ticknology.

"When we looked at what time of year do we find tick-born diseases (in ticks) there was no trend," explained Kaitlyn Morse who runs the BeBop Labs in Plymouth. "It really looks like there are diseases all year round, even the co-infections; no spikes, no trends."

This is only the findings from the first year of research from the nonprofit group. That said, Morse cautioned about interpreting the data.

She reiterated that the study only reflects tick activity within the past year. She believes that to identify a trend or pattern, there need to be at least three years worth of data.

Morse also pointed out that some of the counties are not well represented.

"But it is, I think, an indication of what's out there," she added.

First Documented Case Of A New Disease Pathogen In New Hampshire

The researchers also confirmed the presence of another pathogen called miyamotoi among ticks analyzed for the study. This is the first documented case of miyamotoi in ticks from New Hampshire, the study claimed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, miyamotoi has already been detected in black-legged ticks and western black-legged ticks in North America. A bit from an infected tick might cause fever, chills, headache, body and joint pain, and fatigue.

The researchers warned that miyamotoi seems to be as common as babesia in the collected ticks. They found it in 5 percent of ticks from Grafton County, for example.

Tick bites become more common around the warmer months, but there are ways to prevent them.

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