Hikers and campers need to be on the alert for ticks this summer because of an invasion of Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks that is sweeping across the nation. The CDC says rising temperatures are to blame for the tripling of mosquito-, tick- and flea-borne illnesses from 2004 to 2016.
In Maine, people say they spotted the eight-legged arachnid before spring. They noticed the ticks — which look like moving poppy seeds — encroaching on roads, beaches, playgrounds, cemeteries and library floors. They saw them clinging to dogs, birds and squirrels, reports The Center for Public Integrity.
People found the ticks crawling on their legs, backs and necks. Now, in midsummer, daily encounters seem almost impossible to avoid. The ticks have brought a surge of Lyme disease in Maine over two decades, boosting reported cases from 71 in 2000 to 1,487 in 2016 — a 20-fold increase. Today, Maine leads the nation in Lyme incidence, topping hot spots like Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.
It’s one strand in an ominous tapestry: Across the United States, tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, some potentially lethal, are emerging in places and volumes not previously seen. Climate change almost certainly is to blame, according to a 2016 report by 13 federal agencies that warned of intensifying heat, storms, air pollution and infectious diseases. Last year, a coalition of 24 academic and government groups tried to track climate-related health hazards worldwide. It found them “far worse than previously understood,” jeopardizing half a century of public-health gains.
CDC officials, not mentioning the words “climate change,” attributed this spike partly to rising temperatures.
From the editor: Here are links to two great articles by Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM, about ticks:
“Are you ticked off by ticks?” regarding avoiding and removing ticks, and “How to avoid getting a tick-borne disease.” Both of these also contain links with even more tick-related information.