Tick populations are on the rise in Vermont. And experts are warning people to be more vigilant in checking for ticks on themselves, their children, and their pets.
Lyndon State College professor of biology Alan Geise studies tick populations and says anecdotal observations are backed up by research from around the region.
(Geise) "There’s really good evidence from Maine, from Minnesota, from Michigan, that tick populations are moving northward. Even in Europe. In Sweden there are tick populations now showing up in places where historically they have had none. And in Germany, ticks are moving in elevation up into the alpine zones where they’ve never been at high altitudes before."
Geise says there are a lot of theories for the increase in ticks in northern regions over the last several years. They include land use, global climate change, and changes in deer populations, but a definitive answer remains elusive.
This year may be an especially bad one for tick bites. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York says fluctuations in acorn and mouse populations have a large effect on tick populations.
And a mouse population that’s crashing this year may mean more ticks looking for a human blood meal.
More ticks mean more Lyme Disease. Between 2002 and 2011, the number of annual cases in Vermont rose from 40 to 500.
Dr. Chris Grace is head of Infectious Diseases at Fletcher Allen Healthcare. He says people should be aware of the early symptoms.
(Grace) "Within about a week or so after the bite of a tick, people will develop a very characteristic rash characterized by an expanding redness at the site of the tick bite. And with that people may become ill with fevers and achiness and headache and not feel well."
Early diagnosis and treatment of the disease can help ease symptoms. Dr. Grace recommends that anyone who finds an engorged tick on their skin should get in touch with a doctor.