Tick season: Prepare for an increase
You can tell by the acorns.
A bumper crop of acorns means good times for mice and that means lots of food for ticks.
According to Richard S. Ostfeld, a Cary Institute scientist, there was a bumper crop of acorns in 2015. Lots of ticks therefore survived on mice and reproduced.
Since ticks have a two-year life cycle, the number of nymph-stage ticks should be huge this spring. In areas with lots of snow cover this winter, the tick population might be mitigated, but in areas with a mild winter, the tick population should be big.
Naturally, where there are ticks, there is Lyme disease. That's going to be big, too.
Of course not every tick bite transmits Lyme or any other disease but more ticks carry pathogens today than in the past.
Connecticut, whose Agricultural Experiment Station collects and studies ticks, found in May that 38 percent of collected ticks tested positive for Lyme disease, according to the Wall Street Journal. That is up from 27 percent in the last five years.
The deer tick can actually transmit up to seven pathogens that cause diseases in humans, one of which is Lyme disease.
Connecticut also found that 10 percent of ticks tested positive for a pathogen that causes Babesiosis, a disease similar to malaria. About 5 percent tested positive for Anaplasmosis, a serious disease that causes anemia and an increase in the heart rate. In 2009, talk show host David Letterman revealed he got the disease from an infected tick while camping with his son.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease every year, about three times the number 20 years ago.
If you spot a tick quickly, chances are you will not be infected. Ticks latch on for three to five days but a tick that bites for only a few hours probably won't transmit an infection, according to the CDC.