16 March 2017

HEALTH - Experts Predicting Risky Year for Lyme Disease in NE United States

With spring just around the corner, veterinarians and ecologists are beginning to warn about ticks and Lyme disease.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has declared March National Tick Awareness Month.

According to their press release, many people don't know one very important fact about ticks: they don't mind cold weather.

In most parts of Canada, tick activity begins when the snow starts to melt and, depending on the tick species, can continue well into late fall.

For example, black-legged ticks that can transmit Lyme disease start looking for animals to feed on when it’s 4°C outside.

“National Tick Awareness Month is a rare opportunity for us to educate and empower pet owners, so we can work together to help prevent the spread of tick-borne diseases that can affect the health of pets and people,” said Dr. Troy Bourque, CVMA President.

Felicia Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College and Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, are predicting 2017 will be a particularly risky year for Lyme in the Northeast United States.


Because the Hudson River Valley experienced a mouse plague in 2016 with an overwhelming number of the critters.

Having studied Lyme disease for more than 20 years, Keesing and Ostfeld have developed a system to predict how many cases there will be a year in advance by counting the mice the year before.

They have found that mice are very good at transmitting Lyme and are responsible for infecting the majority of ticks carrying Lyme in the Northeast.

"An individual mouse might have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its ears and face," Ostfeld told NPR.

There was an increase in ticks and Lyme disease in 2016, and it appears that may be the case again this year.

Ticks and their carriers, like mice, live in wooded or bushy areas with high grass or leaf litter.

To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets the CDC recommends the following:
  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
  • If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
  • Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet.

You can find more information about preventing tick bites on the CDC website.

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