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May 15, 2014

Officials fear big summer tick population

Experts are warning that Lyme disease could be a problem this year as ticks will be in abundance across New York this year despite the prolonged frosty winter.

According to Paul Curtis, coordinator of Cornell University’s Wildlife Damage Management Program, the long-lasting snow cover helped insulate overwintering ticks in fallen leaves

The density of tick populations correlates with deer abundance, Curtis said. “High local deer populations have contributed to a rise in reported Lyme disease cases in people and pets,” Curtis said.

The tiny ticks, he said, are generally found in shaded sites or woodland edges, or in shaded home landscapes. “Black legged ticks — also known as deer ticks — do not like dry, open areas and are not common in tall grass,” he said.

New York is one of the leading states in the nation for confirmed cases of Lyme disease according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

“We are definitely seeing more cases now,” said Dr. Charles Hyman, chief of the Department of Medicine at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.

“It’s always important to remind people to cover themselves up with clothing if they are going to be walking into wooded areas,” Hyman said. Sprays that are effective at repelling ticks should also be used, he said.

After returning home from such outings, he said, people should perform a self-check on their bodies to make sure no ticks are clinging to their skin.

“Not everyone remembers to do that,” Hyman said.

In Otsego County, 32 people were infected with Lyme disease in 2012, the most recent year for which the state Health Department has statistics. In Delaware County, there were 13 cases reported to the state agency that year, while Schoharie County and Chenango County had 12 and 14, respectively.

Experts point out that not all deer ticks are infected with he bacterium that cause Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi . Ticks become infected when they feed on small animals such as mice that are infected. The ticks spread the bacteria when they bite a person and stay attached for a period of time, usually at least 36 hours. 

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