Field surveys are underway in Maine to count the tick population and test for disease. According to the early indications, the tick population is growing, and so are the number of infected ticks.
“It was honestly so mild throughout a good portion of the state [this winter],” said Vector Ecologist with Maine Medical Center, Chuck Lubelczyk. “We’re seeing really good numbers.”
Two winters ago, an insulating blanket of snow allowed ticks to survive the winter. This past winter – while there was no snow – there was mild enough temperatures to keep many alive.
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Lubelczyk said they are collecting about 60-70 ticks an hour during field surveys this year. In the past, it’s been about 40-50 ticks an hour.
“As these ticks are getting more established, they’re becoming more and more populous, and the infection rate is going up,” he said.
Some experts say about 1-in-3 northeast deer ticks have Lyme disease this year. Lubelczyk said in some regions, the rate of infection can be as high as 40-70 percent.
The best defense is to wear bug spray and clothing that covers your skin when outdoors. Check yourself, and your pets, for ticks regularly. And see a doctor if you have been bitten, and start to feel sick.