Summer is a few months away, but you do need to start planning, especially because of a possible outbreak of Lyme disease, which can be a debilitating disease. It’s by bacteria and transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks. You may not have realized that last summer, there was a mouse plague in New York’s Hudson River Valley. Why is this relevant–and how is it connected to Lyme? According to ecologists who study Lyme disease, it could spread Lyme disease, as mice carry ticks.
Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, spoke to NPR recently, and explained how one mouse “might have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its ears and face.” He and his wife Felicia Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College, know how to predict Lyme, NPR notes: “Keesing and Ostfeld, who have studied Lyme for more than 20 years, have come up with an early warning system for the disease. They can predict how many cases there will be a year in advance by looking at one key measurement: Count the mice the year before.”
This is precisely why 2017 may be an especially bad year. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports from 2015, Lyme disease has increased in the Northeast–it can be found in 260 counties on the East Coast from Maine to Virginia. It’s also now in the Midwest as well. Epidemiologist Kiersten Kugeler also told NPR that most people get infected around their homes, not on vacation or hiking (as previously thought):
“In the Northeast, most people catch Lyme around their homes. What’s important for people to know is that the ticks are spreading to new areas — and tick-borne diseases are coming with them.”
This means, be extra vigilant about checking for ticks on yourself and your kiddies, especially if you live in a wooded area. Kugeler suggested to “add a tick check to your daily routine,” and that common places to check are the “scalp, behind the ears, the armpits and in the groin area.”
If you do find a tick (or bullet-shaped tick bite), remove it and talk with your doctor. The earlier you get treated, the less chance you have of struggling with the severe symptoms of Lyme disease, which include fatigue and memory loss. Check out the CDC’s recommendations on treatment and prevention here.