Mild winter could cause tick population explosionApril 24th, 2012 | Posted by in Illness | Prevention
While most of the U.S. has experienced a mild winter, Utah has also joined in one of the warmest Winters on record. With this warm weather, experts are advising that the tick populations might be vastly larger than usual. Yet the same warm, dry weather that caused this expansion of the tick population may ultimately hinder survival of young ticks. These young ticks known as nymphs are most prone to spread disease.
Richard Pollack, a tick researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, points out that “Deer ticks are exquisitely sensitive to drying out. This can shorten their survival, which could be good for people, but not so good for deer ticks.’’
Scientists are not in agreement as to why, besides the weather conditions, that there has been a boom in the tick population this Spring. The dominant theory is that a larger population of rodents such as mice could be a contributing factor. This is because ticks feed on rodents and because of the seemingly larger rodent populations there were more animals for ticks to feed upon.
Yet most, if not all experts agree “adult ticks generally go dormant in the winter, nestled under leaves and snow, and then wake up in spring, hungry and looking for a blood meal. But seemingly confused by the balmy winter temperatures, the ticks never seemed to take a break and latched on to prey in large numbers the past several months.”
Obviously, ticks are able to spread illness directly to people. In Utah, ticks are not as apt to carry Lyme disease (more common in ticks of Northeast U.S.) as other diseases such as Colorado Tick Fever and Tick-borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF). Both are characterized by recurring episodes of fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and nausea. Colorado Tick Fever is more rare and has no specific treatment while TBRF can be treated with a variety of antibiotics.
Experts recommend long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into boots when frequenting the outdoors. While it is understandable that this might not be practical in the hot summer months, then they recommend at least applying an insect repellant with DEET. After returning from such hikes or camping trips, they advise giving your entire body a close inspection for any ticks which may have hitched along for the ride.
Download “Facts about Tickborne Disease in Utah” (PDF)