Scientists predict that Lyme disease will increase this year. The prevalence of ticks and all the diseases they carry have been rising in the last years as a consequence of reforestation and climate change. Sadly, that puts pets and people’s health at a greater risk.
According to health authorities, the risk of Lyme disease can be much higher than expected if weather conditions remain humid during the whole summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages “folklore remedies” such as petroleum jelly and heat to remove the tick from the skin since it has to be removed as fast as it is possible. People can’t wait for it to detach.
“Millions of Americans seek care for tick bites each year in the United States and despite that very few of us are equipped to answer the questions,” said Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “The reported cases of tick-borne diseases are increasing. The range of ticks that can carry diseases is expanding. The number of tick-borne diseases that we’re aware of is increasing.”
There is a bigger tick population this year across the U.S.
The number of ticks this year has increased and so has its pervasiveness. Scientists believe this situation is due to climate change and reforestation across the United States because those conditions create a better environment for ticks to survive and expand their range of action. As well, they said that the warm winter allowed a greater part of rodents and mammals to survive, which means that ticks have more animals to use as hosts. These numbers can aggravate if summer weather continues to be this humid.
“How bad it gets depends on many variables and a lot of it depends on the weather conditions,” says Dave Neitzel, who supervises Minnesota’s vector-borne disease unit. “If it’s dry, then the ticks have a hard time coming out and feeding.” But, no matter if this year is the worst yet for ticks, public health officials say the risks from tick-borne viruses are not going away in a near future.
This year there are worse ticks and worse diseases, according to Janet Foley, an epidemiologist at the University Of California Davis School Of Veterinary Medicine. A bigger tick population means that humans have more risks of being infected by viruses that produce about ten dangerous diseases such as the Lyme disease and the Powassan disease. According to the CDC, Lyme disease – which is the most common disease that is transmitted through tick bites – affected more than 25,000 people in 2015 only in the Northeast and Midwest areas of the country. What is more alarming is that two decades ago, Lyme disease affected around 15,000 people, which means that today there was an increase of 10000 cases.
This disease can cause headaches, fatigue, and fever. It can also harm the heart and the nervous system. There are treatments but not an available cure.
The CDC also reported more cases of the Powassan virus, which is also spread through ticks, in humans. There are about 12 cases a year in the whole country, but cases can increase given the current conditions. However, this is troubling because of the terrible consequences of the disease. It produces irreparable neurological damage.
“Powassan virus might be a more serious, more deadly version of Lyme disease,” Bhatia said. “It can cause meningitis, which is an infection of the brain, it can cause encephalitis, which is a swelling of the brain, and it’s often associated with a fever, or vomiting, weakness.” Said Dr. Taz Bhatia said.
Cases of Powassan disease have been already found in the Great Lakes region.
What to do to avoid tick-borne diseases
Removing a tick as soon as possible from the skin is certainly the best thing to do. The CDC recommends people not to apply things such as nail polish or other oils to wait for the thick to detach voluntarily from the skin. People can use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick. It should be pulled straight up. Then people need to clean the bite and their hands with alcohol, water, and soap.
Given their size and natural structure, ticks are not easy to kill but to prevent them to stay alive and to be able to reproduce or affect another host, they can be put in a sealed bag. They can also be flushed down the toilet.
Experts recommend people to go to the doctor if ticks bit them. Not all ticks transmit diseases, but it is certainly better to prevent it. It is also important to know that early treatment reduces the risk of serious complications. Saving the ticks might be useful in case someone develops symptoms because the tick can be tested.
Dr. Batia made clear that treating the spread of ticks is difficult because it is not environmentally safe to spray large areas with chemicals to kill ticks. When going outdoors, she recommends people to use insect repellent, to wear long sleeves and pants and to avoid areas with long grass.