Two New 2020 Tick Types Found In Connecticut: Together They Spark Concern Over Lyme and Tick-borne Disease for This Season
Spring is upon us, which in Connecticut means sunshine, warmer, longer days, and unfortunately, ticks. Data from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), released in a recent report, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that 2019 was a particularly bad year for ticks across the state.
Alarming Data Suggest 2020 Could Be A Bad Tick Season
Over 2,500 ticks, including 2068 deer ticks (Ixodes Scapularis) and 467 American dog ticks (Dermacentor Variabilis) were collected, and all-female deer tick samples were tested for several pathogens that cause disease in humans. The results were alarming, and experts warn that a mild winter can contribute to a larger boom in the tick population, so 2020 could potentially be a more active year for the tick population.
46% of Adult Deer Tick Samples Carried Lyme Disease
Out of the adult deer tick samples tested, 46% carried Borellia Burgdoferi (Lyme Disease), 13% were positive for Babesia Microti (Babesiosis), 9% Anaplasma Phagocytophilum (Anaplasmosis), 2% Borrelia Miyamotoi (tick-borne relapsing fever), and 1% Powassan Virus.
The CAES did not test for other tick-borne pathogens, such as Babesia Duncani (Babesiosis more common to the Pacific coast and Canada), Bartonella Henselae (cat-scratch disease), and Bartonella Quintana (trench fever).
Perhaps more concerning, two types of ticks never before found in Connecticut were identified, the lone star tick and Asian longhorned tick.
Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum):
The lone star tick is known for the silvery white star-shaped spot on its back, and is distributed throughout the eastern US. The CDC has identified this tick as a vector for Ehrlichia chaffeensis and E. ewingii (ehrlichiosis), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), Heartland virus, Bourbon virus, and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). Lone star tick can also cause an allergy to red meat, known as alpha-gal syndrome.
Asian Longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis):
This novel-to-the-US tick variety has been identified along the east coast from Connecticut to Tennessee. Native to East Asia, this species has been identified to transmit Rickettsia Japonica (Japanese Spotted Fever), and is capable of carrying other Rickettsia species, Borrelia species, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Theileria, viral agents Heartland and Powassan viruses, and can be a causative agent of Human hemorrhagic fever. It has been identified in the US on sheep and cattle.
In addition, the CAES releases annual data on its tick submission and testing program, which verifies the findings of the collection study. Of the 3,760 deer ticks submitted, 1,257 (35.7%) were positive for Borrelia Burdorferi, 304 (8.6%) were positive for Anaplasma Phagocytophylum, and 330 (9.4%) for Babesia Microti. Out of all ticks submitted 145 were lone star ticks. Full data can be found on the CAES website, where you can also find information on how to submit ticks for surveillance.
Lyme disease prevention is key when tick bites inevitably happen.
The best course of action is to remove the tick gently with tweezers, grasping as close to the skin as possible. Do not grasp and squeeze the body of the tick. Do not stun the tick with fire, alcohol or any other liquid, as this can cause the tick to release its stomach contents. If you would like the tick to be tested, place it in a crush-proof container, without any other material or liquid. Do not place the tick on tape. The CAES will test for the causative agents of Lyme disease, Babesia and Anaplasma. There are private companies that provide more extensive screening at a cost and have their own guidelines for submission. Contact your doctor immediately. Do not wait for symptoms such as fatigue, headache, rash, and joint pain to set in. Prompt treatment is the best prevention of serious infection.
Dr. Keith Yimoyines is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing at TAO Vitality in Hebron, CT (P: 860-228-1287) with a focus on the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. TAO is hosting a series of free educational talks at the Jonathan Trumbull Library in Lebanon every Thursday in April at 6:30 p.m.