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Despite a brutally cold and snowy winter across much the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, experts say tick populations across both regions are thriving this spring.
“This year, it’s clear that dog ticks are probably up at least a third over what we saw last year same time,” Thomas Mather, co-founder and director of the University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center, said.
The resource center, which performs a crowdsourced tick survey across America, receives between 90 and 150 requests per day to identify different types of the parasite.
“What we’re seeing over the last few weeks has been a virtual explosion compared to last year of American dog ticks in the mid-Atlantic and New England area,” he said.
One of three types of ticks that affect the regions, American dog ticks, are known to carry a slew of pathogens, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
However, less than 1 percent of the American dog ticks in this area are transmitting this disease, he said.
Black-legged (deer) ticks, which carry Lyme disease, and lone star ticks also inhabit the area.
“Down in the mid-Atlantic area in particular, the lone star ticks are also very abundant,” Mather said.
“When you get down into Maryland and parts of southern New Jersey and then out on Long Island, the lone star ticks have been very aggressive this year as well.”
This winter’s abundance of snow helped to keep the blood-sucking parasites warm, working as an insulator from the low temperatures.
"It was a very snowy winter across the Northeast with parts of New England, in particular, experiencing their snowiest winter of all time. That said, there was an insulating layer of snow on the ground in this region for the majority of the winter months," AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll said.
"In the mid-Atlantic, it was the second coldest February of all-time in Pennsylvania, 6th coldest in Maryland and New Jersey, and 7th coldest in Delaware and Virginia, which also contributed to keeping snow on the ground for long periods of time."
To protect against tick bites, Mather recommends pre-treating clothing and shoes that will be worn outdoors for activities such as exercising, hiking and gardening.
Also, he encourages those who have spent time outdoors to do a full body check for ticks after coming indoors. This includes hair and areas that were were fully covered by clothes.
Though different types of ticks carry different viruses, most begin with similar symptoms, he said.
Anyone who is suffering from fever, aches, severe headaches and other flu-like symptoms during the spring and summer should see a doctor, especially if they are aware of a recent tick bite.
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