When you think of pest problems, your first thought likely goes to some bug or insect that’s common in corn and soybean fields.
This spring, depending on where you live, you might want to add black-legged ticks (deer ticks) to your list of pest concerns.
The nasty little creatures transmit Lyme disease, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention predict 2017 could be a particularly bad year for it in the Northeast.
One reason: a bumper crop of mice born last summer, according to Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
Ostfeld and his wife, Felicia Keesing, have developed a system for predicting the disease’s rates by counting how many mice they see.
“An individual mouse might have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its face and (legs),” Ostfeld said during an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) earlier this week.
Ostfeld says mice infect the majority of deer ticks with Lyme disease. Because the Northeast saw immense numbers of mice in many areas last year, he predicts the region will see high numbers of the disease this year.
Key states in the region include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Along with those areas, parts of the upper Midwest could also see more incidence of disease due to the mild winter, which allowed for more overwintering ticks. Key areas in the Midwest include Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Illinois and eastern Iowa.
There are approximately 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease reported every year, according to the CDC.
Lyme disease symptoms including fever, headache, fatigue and skin rash. If diagnosed early enough, Lyme disease can be fully cured with antibiotics. If the disease is left untreated, however, it can cause more severe symptoms like facial palsy, impaired memory and heart rhythm irregularities, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Be proactive. Tick season, and by association, Lyme disease season, is at its peak from April through September. Here are some common-sense ways to minimize your risk of contracting the disease, starting now:
- Keep grassy areas and tall bushes trimmed, especially around your home, barn and outbuildings.
- Use an insect repellent on skin or clothing containing 20% or more of DEET.
- Treat your pets with products that prevent ticks from taking up residence on them.
- Perform daily tick checks if you live in a high-risk area.
If you do find a tick on your body, remove it promptly. If the tick has been on you for less than 24 hours, your chances of contracting Lyme disease are small, but watch for any signs of the illness, like rash or fever. If you do experience any symptoms of the disease, see your doctor immediately.