Tick Activity: Fall 2023
According to TIME, this may be the worst tick season ever! Tick encounters have significantly increased over 2023. There are multiple reasons for the increase in tick activity causing these grievances. Warmer weather caused by climate change allows ticks to be active for longer during the year, causing more intense tick breeding and biting seasons. The mild winter we had last year and recent wet summer will contribute to tick proliferation. Warmer weather and wetter conditions also cause increased vegetation growth. Ticks hang out on overgrown vegetation, waiting for a host to pass by so they can latch on.
Another contributor to increased tick activity is human expansion. White-tailed deer, key hosts for ticks, have been forced into people’s backyards by human development. As we continue to build homes and other developments in areas that were previously wooded, we put ourselves and our pets at risk. When white-tailed deer are pushed out of their natural habitat in the woods, they bring the ticks they carry on them. Imported livestock and dogs can also carry ticks, which is why it is important to improve tick-inspection policies.
This fall, protect yourself and others from tick-borne illnesses by taking preventative methods. Tick-related diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Babesiosis are on the rise. Preventative measures include spraying clothes with an insect repellant such as Permethrin, avoiding walking through wooded areas or tall grass, and putting clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes to kill off any attached ticks. Avoid jumping in leaf piles and clean up the leaf litter in your yard, ticks hide here! Most importantly, remember to always do a thorough tick check on yourself and your pets after spending time outdoors this fall. Prevention is the best medicine! Remember, ticks can transmit diseases year-round, and tick season never truly ends.
Alpha Gal: The Red Meat Allergy Caused by Ticks
The most talked-about tick-borne illness right now is apha-gal syndrome. AGS is an allergic condition triggered by hypersensitivity to alpha-gal, which is found in mammalian (red) meat and products. This condition is caused by a bite from a Lone Star Tick. Symptoms of AGS appear 2-6 hours after consuming red meat and include nausea, diarrhea, hives, and anaphylactic shock.
The prevalence of AGS varies geographically due to the lone star tick’s presence, with more cases in mid-Atlantic regions and fewer in areas without these ticks. The CDC reports that there were 110,000 suspected alpha-gal syndrome cases between 2010 and 2022 and estimate up to 450,000 cases total due to potential under diagnosis and lack of awareness. AGS diagnosis involves an allergist, history of compatible symptoms, and IgE testing for alpha-gal. Treatment for AGS involves dietary changes, and the allergy can resolve over time if further tick bites are avoided.
Healthcare providers’ awareness of alpha-gal syndrome is low, with a survey showing 42% hadn’t heard of the condition, and 35% felt uncertain about diagnosis and management, and only 5% were confident. Addressing this concerning condition requires education on tick-bite prevention, increasing management awareness and improving healthcare provider’s understanding of the condition.
New Technology: Tick Mapping
PCT Magazine details a new research study on a digital mapping platform for the purpose of “tick mapping” and improving tick prevention. Geographic Information Systems, often used for crime analysis, have been increasingly used in science. G.I.S. is a computer system that connects data to a map and assists in understanding patterns, in this case it can be used to identify high-risk areas for tick exposure and disease transmission.
Traditional methods of tick control are often not efficient on a per-acre basis and require repetition. GIS allows for cost-effective neighborhood-scale analysis, particularly in suburban areas where ticks thrive. Combining tick density maps with human population density can enhance targeting of control efforts. Research shows the relationship between tick density and habitat conditions, including humidity and canopy cover. Tick nymphs more abundant in areas with high soil humidity, higher tick density on north-facing slopes.Tick density should be driven by the habitat needs of not only the tick itself, but also the tick’s hosts such as small mammals like rodents.
New Study: How Ticks Use Static Electricity
A new study concluded that ticks can potentially use static electricity to propel themselves onto hosts without physical contact. Ticks respond to the electrostatic charges emitted by mammals, birds, and reptiles. Research shows that tick nymphs are attracted to surfaces charged with voltages encountered in nature. Turns out, you are literally a tick magnet! Static electricity can carry ticks across distances longer than their size, helping them defy their usual movement patterns. Tick prevention methods could include treating outdoor clothing with antistatic spray.
Fall Tick Safety Video