Health officials are warning ticks and tick-borne diseases could be specifically bad in 2017. But, why are ticks so bad this year? According to the CDC, there are numerous reasons for a rise in tick activity and a subsequent increase in diseases and infections caused by the blood-sucking arthropods. However, this year’s increase is being blamed on a particularly mild winter.
Ticks are small, generally flat, arthropods — which exist exclusively on the blood of animals and humans.
As explained by IdentifyUS, ticks cling to the skin or fur of their host and burrow their mouthparts under the skin. In most cases, ticks remain attached to the host until they are done feeding or they are physically removed.
Although there are numerous species, animals and humans are most likely to be bitten by American dog, blacklegged, brown dog, groundhog, Gulf coast, lone star, rocky mountain wood, western blacklegged ticks.
Despite the fact that they are annoying, most tick bites do not cause a serious reaction. Unfortunately, the arthropods can infect animals and humans with diseases and infections — which could be harmful or fatal.
In the United States, tick-borne diseases include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Powassan virus. However, lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever remain the most common.
As reported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May, June, and July, are the most active time for tick activity and tick-related illness in the United States. Each year, between 30,000 and 300,000 people are diagnosed with lyme disease. Although far fewer people are diagnosed with other tick-borne diseases, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Powassan virus, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be harmful or fatal.
The most common symptoms of tick-related disease or infection include aches and pains, chills, fever, and an otherwise unexplained rash. The rashes, in particular, are distinct — and often appear in a “bullseye” pattern around the site of the bite.
As reported by CNN, the number of ticks may be particularly bad in 2017 because the last two winters were generally mild.
A number of the blood-sucking arthropods are usually killed or weakened during the winter months. However, mild weather allows them to survive the winter and therefore maintain their strength and increase their numbers. The mild winters also led to an increase in animals that carry ticks — including deer.
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Goudarz Molaei said the station generally receives fewer than 20 ticks between January and April. However, between January and April 2017, the station has received “nearly 1,000 ticks” for testing.
— LymeDisease.org (@Lymenews) June 1, 2017
Molaei confirmed 38 percent of those ticks tested positive for lyme disease. The numbers are specifically troubling, as peak season usually does not occur until June or July.
According to the CDC, there are several precautions to reduce the possibility of being bitten by a tick and contracting a tick-borne disease or infection.
— Clemson University (@ClemsonUniv) June 3, 2017
In addition to avoiding areas with heavy brush, high grass, and leaf litter, the CDC recommends using insect repellent on clothing, gear, and exposed skin. Products containing more than 20 percent DEET, IR3535, or picaridin, are most effective for repelling the blood-sucking arthropods.
It is also important to protect pets from being bitten by ticks, as they can also suffer from tick-borne diseases and infections. The CDC recommends shampoos and medications that are designed to repel common parasites — including fleas and ticks.
The CDC also recommends conducting a “full-body” check for ticks after spending time outdoors. Clothing and gear can be tumbled in a hot dryer to remove any ticks that may be attached.
Although ticks are expected to be bad this year, preventative measures can help lower the possibility of a bite or the contraction of a serious disease. Anyone experiencing symptoms related to a suspected tick bite is encouraged to seek immediate medical attention.
[Featured Image by Erik Karits/Shutterstock]