FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Experts with the state's tick-testing program are warning of "higher tick abundance" across Connecticut this spring — and they say more are infected with the agent that causes Lyme disease.
“We have received over 450 ticks so far this year," said Dr. Goudarz Molaei, who directs the tick-testing program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.
Larger numbers of ticks are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens, she said.
"Nearly 38 percent have tested positive for Lyme disease spirochetes, 10 percent for Babesia microti, the causative agent of babesiosis, and 5 percent for Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis.”
The higher tick abundance appears to be related to lower winter temperatures in the state over the last two years, officials at the state's tick-testing lab said this week.
Over the past five years, the laboratory has received 12,483 ticks from Connecticut residents or health departments for testing. On average, 27 percent tested positive for the Lyme disease agent.
“Although we have yet to reach peak tick activity this spring, adult deer ticks, Ixodes scapularis, are already active and biting residents in greater numbers,” said Dr. Theodore Andreadis, director of CAES.
“At this time of year, personal protection measures and conducting tick checks remain the most effective ways to reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases,” he said.
Here are the state's guidelines for preventing tick bites:
- Avoid tall grass and over-grown, brushy areas.
- Stay in the middle of the trails when hiking.
- Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen.
- Wear long pants.
- Tuck pants into socks creates a barrier.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and closed shoes.
- Use insect repellent.
- Examine yourself, your children, and pets for ticks when returning indoors.
- Remove all ticks — especially feeding ticks — as soon as possible. Ticks need to feed for 24 hours before transmission occurs. Use tweezers and grasp the tick close to the mouth parts near the skin surface.
- When returning indoors, shower using a wash cloth or buff to remove ticks.
Infection rate for Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens, for deer ticks tested at the CAES in 2016:
- Fairfield: 1,237 ticks tested, 26.3 percent infected with Borrelia burgdorferi
- New Haven: 492 ticks tested, 31.5 percent infected
- Hartford: 166 ticks tested, 31.9 percent infected
- Litchfield: 121 ticks tested, 29.7 percent infected
- Middlesex: 64 ticks tested, 32.8 percent infected
- New London: 22 ticks tested, 40.3 percent infected
- Tolland: 31 ticks tested, 25.8 percent infected
- Windham: 11 ticks tested, 54.5 percent infected