Lyme disease on the uptick in upstate New York

Why are Lyme disease-carrying deer tick populations growing in central New York?

"The reason for increasing tick populations and concomitant infections is likely complex," said Laura C. Harrington, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology at Cornell. "Recent trends with less extreme sustained cold temperatures in the winter may lead to greater overwintering survival of ticks. Higher populations or infection rates in key Lyme bacteria reservoirs, such as the white-footed mouse, also may be responsible. Even factors such as increased awareness and by physicians and veterinarians may play a role."

Harrington said in all of New York state in 2010 and 2011, there were 2,385 and 3,118 reported cases of Lyme disease, respectively, compared with the annual state average of 4,560 cases. But in some regions, such as central and northwestern New York state, Lyme disease cases are increasing.

"Populations of Ixodes scapularis – commonly known as the 'black-legged tick' or '' – appear to be increasing in central New York," Harrington said. "Increases in laboratory-confirmed Lyme disease cases in both humans and dogs also have been noted in our region."

In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 145 cases of Lyme disease in Tompkins County residents, compared with only eight in 2007. But by 2012, there were 338 confirmed cases in Tompkins County dogs.

"Ticks are hard to avoid, especially for those who are active outdoors and want to enjoy the summer weather," Harrington said. She offers these tips to avoid contracting Lyme disease:

  • Know what to look for. Nymphal ticks, which are about the size of a poppy seed or a freckle, are considered the most dangerous because they have already fed once in their larval stage and may already be infectious.
  • Make a habit of checking for ticks daily if you are active outdoors. Ticks don't start transmitting Lyme disease until after they have been attached to for at least 24 hours.
  • Properly remove ticks. Carefully place the tips of a pair of tweezers as close to the base of the skin where the tick is attached with its mouthparts as possible (not the body), and gently pull it out. If the body is squeezed, there is a risk of infecting yourself by pushing Lyme bacteria into the skin. Not all ticks are infected. Save the tick on a piece of tape or in a vial and consult your physician, who may recommend having the tick tested for Lyme bacteria.
  • Use repellent. DEET and picaridin are highly effective repellents against ticks and other biting pests.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tick-borne disease discovered

Sep 20, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Yale School of Public Health researchers in collaboration with Russian scientists have discovered a new tick-borne bacterium that might be causing disease in the United States and elsewhere. ...

New tick-borne illness may be misdiagnosed

Jul 01, 2013

(HealthDay)—Physicians say a new kind of tick-borne infection that's similar to Lyme disease can mislead doctors into thinking it's a different condition.

Lyme disease surge predicted for the northeastern US

Mar 16, 2012

The northeastern U.S. should prepare for a surge in Lyme disease this spring. And we can blame fluctuations in acorns and mouse populations, not the mild winter. So reports Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ...

Recommended for you

Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts

9 minutes ago

Travel restrictions could worsen West Africa's Ebola epidemic, limiting medical and food supplies and keeping out much-needed doctors, virologists said Tuesday as the disease continued its deadly spread.

World 'losing the battle' to contain Ebola: MSF

49 minutes ago

International medical agency Medecins sans Frontieres said Tuesday the world was "losing the battle" to contain Ebola and called for a global biological disaster response to get aid and personnel to west Africa.

Mutating Ebola viruses not as scary as evolving ones

1 hour ago

My social media accounts today are cluttered with stories about "mutating" Ebola viruses. The usually excellent ScienceAlert, for example, rather breathlessly informs us "The Ebola virus is mutating faster in humans than in animal hosts ...

War between bacteria and phages benefits humans

2 hours ago

In the battle between our immune systems and cholera bacteria, humans may have an unknown ally in bacteria-killing viruses known as phages. In a new study, researchers from Tufts University, Massachusetts ...

Ebola kills 31 people in DR Congo: WHO

3 hours ago

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 31 people and the epidemic remains contained in a remote northwestern region, UN the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

User comments