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Hello Massachusetts! Your Ticks Are Still Active

By Chris Williams on September 18, 2014.
ticks in fall

You’re not out of the woods when it comes to risk of tick diseases, so be sure to check yourself and your pets after outdoor excursions.

An email from the International Society for Infectious Diseases has confirmed what we already suspected. Health officials in Cape Cod have seen an increase in tick-borne diseases this past summer.

Used to be that when we talked about disease from ticks in New England, the conversation was pretty much limited to Lyme disease. We’re now dealing with at least three other new tick-transmitted diseases: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and miyamotoi. Miyamotoi, which was first documented in the U.S. just last year, was diagnosed in 13-14 people from the Cape this summer. There has not been a fatality from miyamotoi in the U.S., but health officials in Massachusetts are keeping a close eye on the new disease’s progress.

Eastern Massachusetts Has More Lyme Disease

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Lyme disease is considered endemic in all of Massachusetts. Areas of high incidence include much of the eastern half of the state. Regions of particularly high incidence include Plymouth, Cape Cod and the Islands, and some areas in Middlesex, Essex, and southern Berkshire counties. More isolated areas of high incidence occur in Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester counties.

Cape Cod is a Hot Bed for Tick Diseases

Although Lyme disease continues to outnumber the other tick-transmitted diseases, cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis have almost quadrupled over the last 5 years in the state of Massachusetts. The likelihood of getting a disease from a tick is higher on the Cape than in the rest of Massachusetts. The Cape and the Islands region is essentially ground zero for babesiosis with the highest incidence in the state, and has the second highest incidence of anaplasmosis.

Remember that ticks are still active and can transmit Lyme disease well into the fall. You’re not out of the woods yet, so to speak. “The adult ticks emerging now are easier to see but more likely to carry Lyme disease than the nymphs,” said Brenda Boleyn, co-chairwoman of the Barnstable County Lyme/Tick Diseases Task Force. She recommends that residents continue their tick checks after being outside, and consider using DEET-based repellents on bare skin and permethrin-based repellents on clothing.

For more information, see Tick-borne Diseases in Massachusetts.

Photo credit: isvend09 / Foter / CC BY

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