Warm winter launches early deer tick season
URI tick expert predicts ticks will be abundant in 2000
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 22, 2000 -- The warm winter weather in the Northeast
this year has caused deer ticks, the tiny arthropod responsible for transmitting
Lyme disease and other illnesses, to become active earlier than usual.
According to Thomas Mather, professor of entomology at the University
of Rhode Island and director of the University's Center for Vector-Borne
Disease, ticks found at this time of year are almost certain to be deer
"With the early onset of spring-like weather, we've received a number
of reports of people here in Rhode Island finding ticks on themselves and
their pets," said Mather. "In Rhode Island, any tick found at
this time of year is going to be an adult deer tick. And if you find an
adult deer tick on you now, then you are also at risk of getting the tiny
nymphal stage tick on you later in the spring or early summer." The
pin-head sized nymph is much more difficult to find and remove.
Typically, the peak transmission period for Lyme disease is May through
July when the smaller nymphs are active, but adult ticks can also transmit
disease-causing microbes and so the early appearance of ticks places people
at risk for Lyme disease even now.
Mather also predicts that deer ticks will be abundant this summer.
"The trend over the last seven years has been clear," he said.
"Every two years deer ticks have been quite abundant. Last year their
numbers were down from the previous year, so this year I expect to see an
increase, both in the number of ticks and in the number of cases of Lyme
In addition to Lyme disease, deer ticks also carry a malaria-like protozoan
that causes babesiosis and a bacterium that causes human granulocytic ehrlichiosis
(HGE). Both of these infections cause flu-like symptoms, are difficult to
diagnose, and can be fatal. And although Lyme disease cases were lower
last year than in 1998, Rhode Island saw a surge in the number of reported
cases of babesiosis in 1999.
Mather recommends that people who are finding adult deer ticks now should
consider hiring a pest control service to apply a tick-killing insecticide
around the perimeter of their property and on disease-carrying mice before
the harder-to-spot nymphal stage ticks emerge in May.
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For Further Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892
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