It is August and it is the time when a new generation of deer ticks is hatching. Our wet spring and early summer helped create a bumper crop of many types of ticks this year, as anyone who works or plays in our local fields or timber has found out. Now we are in Round 2 of tick production.
Deer ticks are a common species of tick in Nebraska and known to carry Lyme disease. Lyme disease is probably most commonly associated with ticks along with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
With Lyme disease, cases in the United States number about 40,000 annually. Experts say the real number of infections is probably closer to 300,000 nationally.
We have had a near-perfect weather pattern for ticks this summer for deer ticks. I have had a couple people who have been out doing some pre-season scouting tell me the ticks are thick! In the tall grass of parks, at the edge of your lawn and along almost any hiking trail, ticks lurk. The young ticks that are hatching now are looking their first blood meal. If you are outside and off a manicured lawn, you may be it.
Health officials are concerned that ticks and tick-borne diseases could become epidemic, but why are ticks so bad this year? According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are numerous reasons for a rise in tick activity and a subsequent increase in diseases and infections caused by the blood-sucking little critters. However, this year’s increase is primarily being blamed on a mild winter, warm summer and rains at the right time.
“Tick-borne diseases are a very serious problem, and they’re on the rise,” said Rebecca Eisen, a research biologist at the CDC. “Even though you may live in an area where you didn’t have ticks in the past or your parents don’t remember having ticks, the distribution is changing and more people are at risk.”
With urban expansion and a push to conserve wooded areas, deer and mice populations are thriving. Both of these species provide ample blood meals for ticks and help spread tick populations.
As stated earlier, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, may be the tick-borne diseases that people think of most often when the topic of ticks comes up, but the list keeps getting longer:
In the United States, some ticks carry pathogens that can cause human disease, including:
» Anaplasmosis — transmitted to humans by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick in the northeastern and upper Midwest, and the western blacklegged tick along the Pacific coast.
» Babesiosis — caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Most human cases of babesiosis in the U.S. are found primarily in the northeast and upper Midwest.
» Borrelia mayonii infection — recently been described as a cause of illness in the upper Midwestern United States. It has been found in blacklegged ticks and is a new species and is another species known to cause Lyme disease,
» Borrelia miyamotoi infection — recently been described as a cause of illness in the US and transmitted by the blacklegged tick and has a range similar to that of Lyme disease.
» Bourbon virus infection — identified in a limited number of patients in the Midwest and southern United States. At this time, it is not known if the virus might be found in other areas of the United States.
» Colorado tick fever — caused by a virus transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick and occurs in the Rocky Mountain states at elevations up to 10,500 feet.
» Ehrlichiosis — transmitted to humans by the lone star tick and found primarily in the south-central and eastern US.
Heartland virus cases have been identified in the Midwestern and southern US. Studies suggest that Lone Star ticks can transmit the virus. It is unknown if the virus may be found in other areas of the country.
» Lyme disease — transmitted by the blacklegged tick in the northeastern US, upper Midwest and the western blacklegged tick along the Pacific coast.
» Powassan disease — transmitted by the blacklegged tick and the groundhog tick. Cases have been reported primarily from northeastern states and the Great Lakes region.
» Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis — transmitted to humans by the Gulf Coast tick.
» Rocky Mountain spotted fever — transmitted by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and the brown dog tick. The brown dog tick and other tick species are associated with RMSF in Central and South America.
» Southern tick-associated rash illness — transmitted via bites from the lone star tick found in southeastern and eastern states.
» Tickborne relapsing fever — transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.
» Tularemia — transmitted to humans by the dog tick, the wood tick and the lone star tick. Tularemia occurs throughout the U.S.
» 364D rickettsiosis (Rickettsia phillipi, proposed) — Transmitted to humans by the Pacific Coast tick. This is a new disease recently found in California.
Be careful in the field this fall.