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Black-legged Tick Numbers Growing in New Hampshire

By Chris Williams on June 23, 2016.

While most of the nation is readying for a possible onslaught of cases of Zika virus, we here in the Northeast need to be more concerned at the moment with diseases that are transmitted by ticks. We know we have the ticks, and almost everyone knows someone who has had Lyme or a related tick-transmitted disease.

In New Hampshire, our primary tick of concern is the black-legged tick, formerly known as the deer tick. This tick is responsible for spreading Lyme disease with its bite. New Hampshire has some of the highest Lyme disease rates in the country with more than 1,300 diagnosed cases in each of the last five years. And that’s just the diagnosed ones.

For 30 years, Dr. Alan Eaton of the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension service has been catching and counting ticks. He says that black-legged tick numbers are increasing and their range is spreading in New Hampshire.

Ticks Are “Nature’s Dirty Needle!”

Lyme disease is not our only tick-transmitted disease. In the last 5 years, cases of anaplasmosis have more than tripled and cases of babesiosis have quadrupled for a total of 52 last year. Tick disease specialist Dr. Connor Coffin says, “I like to think of ticks as nature’s dirty needle. When you get bit by one, you never know what’s there.”

If you start to have flu-like symptoms in the summertime with aches, fever, not feeling well—you might want to see your physician. Think about whether you have been in tick areas or have removed an attached tick. The bull’s eye rash has been touted as an indicator of Lyme disease but it can take up to 30 days to appear and 20-30% of people never develop the rash.

All stages of the black-legged tick spread Lyme disease. From now through July is the greatest risk for Lyme disease because the immature nymphs are prevalent. The nymphs are more effective at spreading the disease because they are smaller and harder to see than the adult ticks. You’re also less likely to feel a nymph crawling on you.

You Can Make Your Yard Less Habitable to Ticks

Black-legged ticks like shade and moisture and are most common in wooded lots. They especially like the “edge habitat” in a yard, the area where lawn meets woods or shrub growth. This is where their hosts, deer and smaller animals such as mice or chipmunks, hang out. So the edge is where ticks wait most often for an animal to pass by.

There are lots of steps you can take to reduce your yard’s appeal to ticks and to help protect your family and pets from tick bites: adding mulched borders to serve as “tick-free zones,” keeping grass and weeds trimmed, managing bird feeders so that mice don’t become a problem, and keeping deer out of your yard with fencing or by planting deer-resistant plants. And above all, don’t forget the tick repellent!

For more on how to deter ticks, check out these Colonial blogs:

[Source: WMUR.com special report. Growing tick populations increase risk of disease, by Jennifer Crompton. June 12, 2016]

Photo Credit : Credit: California Dept. of Public Health

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