On Long Island, every season has been a tick.
Scientists and medical experts say the warm winter has helped ticks stay unusually active year-round. This means more bites and less chance of infection from small creatures.
Doctors are also still trying to unravel the effects of lone star ticks, which seem to be on the rise everywhere. Although they do not contain the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, they do contain pathogens that can cause other health problems.
Dr. Louis Marcos, an infectious disease expert at Stony Brook Medicine, said he and his colleagues saw patients in March and early April with “small amounts of tick bites.”
What to know
Experts talk about the danger of the bite Ticks and possibly tick-borne diseases can occur year-round due to warm weather and other factors.
The only asterisk is visible To become more abundant by removing deer ticks in Suffolk County.
- Lone star ticks do not carry. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease, one bite can cause itching and other serious health problems.
While most were diagnosed with lone star tick bites, they also developed Lyme disease, as well as anaplasmosis, another tick-borne disease with symptoms of fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.
Both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are carried by deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks.
“We are used to seeing all these things at the end of May, June, July,” Marcos said. “For the last two years now, we have been seeing more signs in April. This is not what we are used to seeing,” he said.
Entomologist Scott Campbell says Long Islanders should take precautions against tick bites year-round.
“In the spring, we have different species active, and that’s when people are more active outdoors,” said Campbell, director of the Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory at the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. “Lone star ticks are more active in the spring … they’re aggressive, and many Long Islanders come into contact with them.
A lone star makes its own mark
For years, Long Islanders have focused on getting rid of deer ticks, which can spread. Lyme disease. These ticks primarily use deer and mice as both a food source and a means of transportation.
Signal monitoring is carried out in 10 stations Suffolk County And instead of trying to estimate the population of ticks, it is focused on testing pathogens. Between 42 and 70 percent of deer ticks tested in Suffolk since 2014 have tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Nassau County does not conduct surveillance. But in 2021 and 2022 more ticks, mostly of the black-legged variety, were found in Nassau. “Tick Blitz” A citizen-science project led by the Northeast Regional Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases, Cornell University’s Department of Entomology.
Campbell said deer tick numbers appear to be slightly lower than in previous years, but lone star ticks are “abundant” and could be considered a major species in Suffolk.
Adult female ticks have a white dot on their back, which gives them their name. Both adults and nymphs, or young ticks, often bite humans. This can cause itching and skin irritation due to an allergic reaction to TK saliva.
Others are known to be bitten by star ticks alone Alpha-galThey become allergic to red meat, says Dr. Andrew Handel, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital who treats patients with tick-borne diseases. People with alpha-gal may develop severe stomach pain, a hives or itchy rash, swelling of the lips, throat, tongue or eyelids — among other symptoms — two to six hours after eating meat or dairy products, as well as gelatin-coated medications. .
“There is a compound in saliva that is similar to a chemical found in red meat,” he said. “This is becoming more common.”
There’s another worry: Handel’s lab says it’s studying another lone star tick-borne pathogen, Rickettsia amblyommatis, which it says is a close relative of the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
“We know that 60% of lone star ticks are infected with it, but there’s no literature on what it does to humans, although we expect it to cause mild symptoms for a short period of time,” Handel said.
Stony Brook Medicine researchers study blood samples from young children in an effort to track the disease.
“We know that Rickettsia amblyommatis is present in most of our local lone star ticks, but we know little about its effects on humans,” Handel said. “A few cases have been reported with mild symptoms — fever, rash and headache — that usually get better without antibiotics. We suspect other people have similar symptoms from the infection, but we’re studying it at Stony Brook to get a better understanding.”
Lone star ticks are also behaving differently than deer ticks, said Brian Kelly of East End Mosquito and Tick Control.
“They don’t seem to be temperature sensitive,” Kelly said. “We’re finding them crawling in the middle of the lawn or on hot driveways or on pool equipment. Deer ticks stay at the edge of the forest. You won’t find them in the middle of the lawn.
‘Newcomer to the Block’
Asian long-horned ticks were first detected in the U.S. in 2017 and have been found on pets, livestock, wildlife and humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They took a trip to Long Island.
“It’s a new Asian longhorned tick that has come into the block,” Campbell said. “They seem to be expanding in the region. [Suffolk] county, as well as in number.”
Campbell said their impact on public health is still unknown.
In other countries, the Asian longhorned tick is known to carry diseases that can sicken or kill livestock and livestock. And the CDC has shown that a laboratory study can transmit the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but the germs are not found in ticks in nature.
“They have some pathogens, but they don’t seem to be aggressive to humans and they have the ability to transmit those pathogens,” he said. “Right now we’re only looking at those.”
The threat of Lyme remains.
Despite the increase in lone star ticks, doctors and scientists agree that Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks, is still a serious concern on Long Island.
Handel believes the incidence of tick-borne diseases, particularly Lyme disease, has increased over the years. The CDC said tracking cases is difficult because they go unreported and there is no way to know exactly how many people are infected.
About 30,000 cases of Lyme are reported to the agency by state health departments each year, but some estimates suggest that more than 450,000 people may develop Lyme disease annually.
Most cases are found in children between the ages of 5 and 10, followed by adults in their 50s and 60s, Handel said. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain. Some people with Lyme disease may develop a distinctive bull’s-eye rash around the bite site.
“Patients with these flu-like symptoms in the spring or summer should be evaluated for tick-borne illness,” Marcos said. Sometimes I see patients who have gone to three doctors for fever and night sweats and no one diagnoses Lyme.
Mr. Handel said that he has arthritis, which is a symptom of Lyme disease, and pointed out that it takes about six months for the swelling of the joints to grow.
Stony Brook is looking for volunteers between the ages of 5 and 17 a Clinical trial A new vaccine for Lyme disease.
“Children are more likely to be exposed to ticks and more likely to develop Lyme disease,” he said. “Getting a vaccine to prevent this is amazing.”
Between 10% and 30% of people with Lyme disease develop recurrent long-term symptoms, sometimes years after the initial infection. Marcos said more studies are needed to learn more about this syndrome and how to treat it. Current research on prolonged covid may help.
“There may be a change in the immune system that causes these symptoms,” he said. I believe long covid can give us insight into chronic lyme.
Protection from tickets
- Wear long sleeves and long pants when entering the forest. Make sure shirts are tucked in and pants are tucked in with socks.
- Consider using insect repellents with permethrin on clothing and repellents with DEET on skin. Read all directions before using protector.
- Shower and check for ticks when you return from outdoors. Important areas include around the hairline, ears, behind the knees, belly button and any skin folds. Small children may need help doing this.
- Place all clothes in the dryer on high heat. First, do not put clothes in the washing machine. Ticks survive in the washing machine but not dry heat.
If I bite?
- Take a clear, focused photo with your phone to help identify it later.
- Remove the tick as soon as possible by using mosquito nets close to the skin and trying to grab the tick’s neck.
- Rub the bite with rubbing alcohol, iodine, or soap and water. Wash your hands.
- You may want to save the tick in a bag or bottle containing alcohol. Write down the date the tick was removed and the location of the bite.
- Monitor your symptoms for a few weeks. Consult a doctor if you develop symptoms including rash, fever, fatigue, muscle pain, and joint swelling.
For information about participating in the Lyme vaccine clinical trial at Stony Brook, call (631) 638-2684 or email SBM_LymeVaccine_Study@stonybrookmedicine.edu
Source: Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center