Climate change alters the geographic distribution of ticks
DOVER, Del. “No matter where you live in America, ticks are a part of life.
“There’s an abundance of it,” said Delaware state epidemiologist Kristen Rios. “They’re hard to see, they’re hard to spot – and that’s a problem in itself.”
Ticks can carry and transmit diseases to humans, such as Lyme disease, among others.
Dr. Ashley Kennedy, a tick biologist for the state of Delaware, collects ticks from state public lands and national wildlife refuges to see where they are most abundant.
Kennedy collects the samples by passing a white cloth over the foliage.
Delaware is one of the best states in the country for ticks and accompanying Lyme disease cases. The state recently launched a web page where tick encounters can be reported.
Now, however, other states are joining the tick fray.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, comparing the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2001, compared to 2019there has been a huge growth in cases in the northeast and greater spread in states like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
What’s behind the growth?
“Climate change probably plays a big part in that,” Kennedy said. “The trend is towards milder winters. So the ticks are more successful in surviving them, allowing them to really explore new territories, carve out a larger distribution.
That’s not all. Scientists are now investigating something new with ticks.
This is called Alpha-gal syndrome. Carried by Lone Star ticks – so called because of the white dot on their backs – their bite causes an unusual reaction in some people.
This makes them allergic to meat.
“These symptoms can range from itchy hives, or a rash, to swelling in certain parts of the face or indigestion, heartburn,” Rios said. “It’s very rare, but we’re seeing more cases of these pop-ups.”
There are ways to protect yourself. Experts recommend applying an insect repellent containing DEET.
Wear long sleeves and pants when possible, they said, as well as light colors, so you can easily spot ticks. It is also important to be sure to check for ticks when coming from outside.
If you find one, keep it simple, experts say: use tweezers to remove it.
Also, don’t forget your pets.
“I also try to check on my pets regularly,” Kennedy said. “And you want to remove the tick as soon as you find them, because the longer they’re attached, the more likely they are to transmit a pathogen to you or you.” to your pet.
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