Although scientists have long said Lyme disease-carrying ticks haven’t spread, a new nationwide study revealed that the ticks have spread far beyond regions where researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously believed they flourished.
According to a CBS News report, researchers found ticks capable of spreading Lyme disease in an additional 83 counties where such ticks had never previously been reported across 24 states. Perhaps even more alarming is that these bugs spread quickly. Initially, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation and Northern Arizona University set up a study to collect tick samples from around the U.S. They set a goal of 2,000 specimens, and they received more than 16,000 from people who found ticks on either themselves of their pets.
Study author Nate Nieto, an associate professor with Northern Arizona University’s department of biological sciences, said that ticks and the diseases they carry pose a growing health risk in the United States.
“People should be aware of ticks and tick-borne disease, even when they may think there’s not a recorded incidence of a tick in a county. These things, they’re not obeying borders. They’re going by biology. If they get moved there by a deer or bird or people or pets, they’re going to establish themselves and start growing.”
Another interesting discovery these researchers made was that ticks are born carrying the diseases instead of picking them up off their hosts. The most commonly found ticks include the deer tick, the western black-legged tick, and the lone star tick. All these various insects carried the infectious bacteria that can cause Lyme disease throughout every stage of its lifecycle.
Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, said the study’s result “highlights the geographic variability of ticks and the pathogens they carry.”
In just over a decade, between 2004 and 2012, the CDC reported that cases of tick-borne diseases in the U.S. doubled. In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can also cause anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness), and several more with new diseases discovered from time to time.
According to Self, people who find themselves bitten by ticks must take care to remove them properly. Plus, the ideal situation is to take steps to avoid tick bites in the first place.
To remove a tick, use a pair of tweezers with a fine tip, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull the tweezers away from the skin using firm consistent pressure. Do not jerk, twist, or crush the tick.
While ticks pose a health risk, it doesn’t mean you have to stay inside during their most active season from April through September. Simply take precautions to avoid being bitten and perform a tick check after spending time outside.