Health officials want outdoorsy New Yorkers to be mindful that this year’s pleasant winter and spring have ushered in a hearty tick season — and the disease bounty carried by these bugs.
Moreover, age-old guidance has shifted in recent years, due to the rise of Powassan virus, a rare but serious infection that can cause brain inflammation.
Folks have been accustomed to do a full body check at the end of the day, said Jennifer White, director of the Vector Borne Disease Unit within the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control. Those once-a-day checks are important for stopping Lyme disease, the most prevalent tick-borne disease in New York, she said. But Powassan virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes.
“We really are trying to refresh our educational messaging to remind folks that it’s very important to be vigilant about checking your body for ticks while you’re still outside,” White said.
She reminded New Yorkers that it’s also valuable to use repellent and wear long sleeves, long pants and light colors because it’s easier to recognize a tick on a pair of khakis than jeans or black pants. The New York State Department of Health maintains a series of videos and tipsheets on how to avoid tick bites and Lyme disease.
Tick season got off to an early start in the Northeast, likely driven by the mild temperatures. Over January and February, the Northeast recorded its highest total incidence of tick bite-related emergency department visits in nearly six years, according to a data tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rate — 38 emergency department visits per 100,000 people — was twice that of the same period last year.
“We can have ticks emerge anytime, year round that the temperatures are over 40 degrees [Fahrenheit],” White said. Both New York and New Jersey witnessed their warmest January-February period on record this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Since then, tick bites have settled into what’s typical for the Northeast during springtime, and it’s hard to predict if the rest of 2023 will be worse compared to past years.
If the upcoming summer is wet and rainy, people might stay inside, White said. If it is really hot and dry, then ticks will be unlikely to survive out in the open. Arid conditions are currently in play — as 62% of New Jersey and all of downstate New York are abnormally dry, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.
White added that tick-borne disease is driven both by the emergence of the parasitic arachnids but also human behavior.
“People are starting to be outdoors a little bit more. They’re starting to do their spring activities, their yard cleanup,” White said, advising that hikers and lawn enthusiasts stay away from brush to avoid ticks. And pet owners should consult veterinarians on prevention steps for their dogs and cats, she said.
Source : https://gothamist.com/news/tick-season-is-back-why-outdoorsy-new-yorkers-should-check-themselves-every-15-minutes