A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the number of tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. has gone up by 25% since 2011. This includes a rare disease that is now spreading in the Northeast.
The CDC says there have been a lot more cases of babesiosis in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. This disease can cause mild to severe illness. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, the disease is already thought to be widespread.
The bite of a black-legged tick spreads the disease, which is becoming more common but is still rare.
Babesiosis infections can cause no symptoms or mild to life-threatening illnesses. Symptoms, which can last for a few weeks, usually show up between one and four weeks after a bite. The most common signs are fever, chills, sweating, tiredness, and pain in the muscles. They also include hepatosplenomegaly, or an enlarged liver, and hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be made.
Yale scientist Goudarz Molaei told Nexstar’s WTNH that shorter winters could be one reason why there are more diseases spread by ticks.
“It’s clear that climate change and other changes in the environment are causing more ticks and more tick activity,” Molaei said.
Molaei said that, on average, at least one disease agent is in at least one out of every two ticks in Connecticut.
“We have to be aware of the places where ticks might be, so try to stay away from wooded or tall grassy areas at all costs,” he said.
Molaei says that if you have no other choice, you’ll have to check yourself and your pets for ticks every day, since pets often bring ticks into the house with them.
The CDC wants people who spend a lot of time outside to use tick repellents and, if possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
If a tick bites you, the CDC says to do the following:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap
- Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet. If you would like to bring the tick to your healthcare provider for identification, put it in rubbing alcohol or place it in a sealed