Got Lyme disease? You’re definitely not alone
Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892
Tick abundance this summer was higher than ever
KINGSTON, R.I. – August 19, 2005 – Are you experiencing the joint pain, fatigue and bulls eye-like rash that are typical symptoms of Lyme disease? How about persistent spiking fevers and chills and lethargy that are common signs of babesiosis? Or high fevers and excruciating headaches that come from anaplasmosis. If so, you’re not alone.
According to a University of Rhode Island tick researcher, it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of Rhode Islanders were infected with Lyme disease or another tick-borne disease this year, given the high numbers of ticks his research team has found in statewide surveys.
“Our statistics show that tick abundance this year was up 84.5 percent over last year’s levels, and the tick counts for this summer are 109 percent higher than the previous 13 year average,” said Thomas Mather, director of URI’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease.
While data on human Lyme disease cases occurring in Rhode Island is typically recorded by the Department of Health, Mather is convinced that this year will be a record-breaking year for cases of the disease.
“The peak of nymphal blacklegged (deer) tick activity, which typically is in mid-June, extended into mid-July this year -- several weeks longer than normal -- and the peak of Lyme disease cases occurs usually about two or three weeks after the tick activity peak. So it’s likely that many people are just now beginning to experience symptoms,” he said.
Mather has been monitoring tick abundance in the state since 1993, and with the exception of one year, his annual tick risk data have corresponded with the number of Lyme disease cases reported for that year. “Lyme disease is a product of tick abundance and human exposure to ticks,” Mather explained. “This summer we saw a double whammy—the confluence of more ticks and longer seasonal exposure.”
“The only good news is that the hot, dry conditions have finally taken their toll on the nymphal ticks,” he added, “and people are at much less risk now.”