Reports of disease-carrying ticks are occurring in places across the United States where they have not previously been seen. In fact, 83 counties across 24 states have reported finding disease-carrying ticks. Nate Nieto, an associate professor of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University, warns people should be aware of the increasing number of ticks and tick-borne disease. “They’re not obeying borders. They’re going by biology. If they get moved there by a deer or bird or people or pets, they’re going to establish themselves and start growing.” said Dr. Nieto.
Between January 2016 and August 2017, the Bay Area Lyme Foundation led an effort to collect tick samples across the U.S. Together with the Northern Arizona Foundation, they collected more than 16,000 ticks from people in every state excluding Alaska. Ticks were found in areas not included on tracking maps maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of many surprising findings from this massive endeavor.
Tick populations are spreading at rapid rates. Tennessee was one of the 24 states with counties reporting deer ticks not previously documented. Furthermore, ticks were found in states they were not thought to exist. California reported lone star ticks. Nevada reported black-legged ticks. This was the first time ever either were found in these states.
Additionally, ticks carrying Babesia were found in 26 counties across 10 states. Babesiosis is spread by ticks carrying microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Moreover, babesiosis can cause life threatening illness in certain cases.
Lyme disease is a bigger risk than many of us realize. Between 2016 and 2017, the prevalence of Lyme disease spiked quite significantly. Cases of Lyme disease are not only increasing in numbers but occurring in geographic areas not previously thought to be associated with the disease. Ticks are living longer and expanding into regions not historically at risk. While Lyme disease is still most prevalent in the Northeastern United States, many other states have seen significant increases in numbers of cases. Between 2015 and 2017, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia have reported notable increases in Lyme disease.
Tick populations are spreading. In addition to protecting their pets from ticks by giving them preventive, people should take steps to protect themselves. The Bay Area Lyme Foundation recommends taking the following steps:
- Wear light colored clothing to make ticks more visible.
- Do regular tick checks after being outdoors in areas where ticks may exist.
- Place your clothes in the dryer on high heat before washing them. This is one of the best ways to rid your clothes of possible ticks.
- Consider using a tick repellent like DEET for skin and permethrin for clothing.
- If you suspect you have sustained a tick bite, talk to your doctor immediately.