As the warm weather of spring rolls across the land, ticks are becoming more active. The following Cornell University experts offer an assessment of the 2017 tick season. All are available for comment.
Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann: A relatively mild winter coupled with even greater abundance of deer and mice means that ticks are more plentiful than ever.
Gangloff-Kaufmann is an entomologist whose work focuses on integrated pest management.
“In the Northeast, and possibly across the northern United States, 2017 is gearing up to be a good season for ticks, which is bad for us.
“There are several species of ticks that carry human and animal diseases. The best known is the blacklegged tick, which prefers moist woodland edges and notoriously transmits Lyme disease. It can also carry other increasingly important diseases, such as babesiosis and anaplasmosis. The lone star tick is increasing its range in the Northeast and Midwest as well. Lone star ticks thrive in hotter, drier places, such as lawns, and transmit ehrlichiosis and tularemia. While most of these non-Lyme diseases are fairly uncommon, infections are increasing and can cause serious illness.
“Our best advice for avoiding tick-borne illness is to protect yourself. Learn how to identify ticks and their habitat. Use permethrin-based tick repellent on clothing when you are in tick habitat. Conduct a tick-check of your entire body (and of your kids!) within 12-24 hours of outdoor activities.
“Remove a tick carefully using tweezers and pulling on the head close to embedded mouthparts, not the body. If there is any concern about disease, save the tick in a bag and contact one of the many laboratories that test ticks for disease organisms. Because ticks are highly mobile on their wild hosts and only community-wide control efforts can make a real difference in the populations, we do not recommend spraying individual yards for ticks.”
Mani Lejeune: There are at least 16 species of ticks in New York state and 26 in the eastern U.S.
Lejeune is a board-certified veterinary parasitologist at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center.
“Accurate identification of ticks is important to determine what microbes to test for. There are at least 16 species of ticks in New York state and 26 in the eastern U.S.
“Blacklegged ticks, formerly known as deer ticks, are the most commonly collected ticks from dogs and humans in the Northeast.
“While it’s good to have better tests for tick-borne diseases, it’s best to prevent tick bites in the first place. This means year-round vigilance. Conduct regular tick checks on your family and pets in all seasons – including winter. If you own horses or other livestock, check them for ticks, as well.
“When removing a tick, try to keep the body and head intact so that the species can be most accurately identified. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Kennel Club websites have detailed instructions on how to accomplish this safely, or consult your doctor or veterinarian. Ticks should be placed into an escape-proof jar such as a clean empty pill bottle for submission.”
Laura Goodman: Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center offers tick testing services to the public.
Goodman is a senior research associate at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center.
“There are many different species of ticks with very subtle differences in appearance so you really can’t rely on pictures on the web to identify them.
“Not all ticks transmit all diseases. We need to know exactly what species it is so we can determine what tests are appropriate.
“The Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center Tick Evaluation Program offers tick testing services to the public – both species identification as well as molecular pathogen detection – as a way to improve surveillance and meet the need for reliable testing. People interested in tick testing can visit our website or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, to receive more information.
“Positive tick testing results do not necessarily indicate that an infection has been transmitted. Always call your doctor for medical advice.”