Ticks, mos­qui­toes ar­rive with warm weather

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Amanda Cuda

Spring is in full swing, and while it may be a time for pic­nics, park vis­its and other ac­tiv­i­ties in the great out­doors, it’s also a prime time for dis­ease-car­ry­ing pests.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, ticks that carry Lyme dis­ease and other ill­nesses are out in force. In a few weeks, the state will be­gin trap­ping and test­ing mos­qui­toes for dis­eases, in­clud­ing the West Nile virus.

It’s too early to know ex­actly how big a prob­lem ticks or mos­qui­toes will be, but they’ll likely be a sig­nif­i­cant me­nace, said Dr. Theodore An­dreadis, di­rec­tor of the Con­necti­cut Agri­cul­tural Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion in New Haven. An­dreadis said that’s par­tic­u­larly true of ticks.

“Peo­ple of­ten ask me whether it’s go­ing to be a bad tick sea­son, and my answer is, ‘It’s al­ways bad,’ ” he said.

Tick time

Sev­eral dif­fer­ent kinds ticks can carry a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses, the best known is prob­a­bly Lyme dis­ease.

Lyme dis­ease is caused by a spi­ral bac­terium called Bor­re­lia burgdor­feri and is spread to hu­mans through the bite of black-legged ticks. Symp­toms can in­clude fever, headache, fa­tigue and a char­ac­ter­is­tic “bull’s-eye”-shaped skin rash. If left un­treated, the ill­ness can have se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

Con­necti­cut res­i­dents have been sub­mit­ting ticks for test­ing. As of Wed­nes­day, 1,356 ticks had been sub­mit­ted, said Goudarz Mo­laei, a re­search sci­en­tist for Agri­cul­tural Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion’s Depart­ment of Environmen­tal Sciences and Cen­ter for Vec­tor Bi­ol­ogy and Zoonotic Dis­eases.

Of those, Mo­laei said, 907 ticks have been tested and “in­fec­tion rates in black-legged/deer ticks for the pathogens re­spon­si­ble for Lyme dis­ease, anaplas­mo­sis, and babesio­sis stand at 44.6 per­cent, 13.7 per­cent, and 10.2 per­cent,” re­spec­tively.

An­dreadis said the num

ber of ticks col­lected and the per­cent test­ing pos­i­tive for dis­ease-caus­ing bac­te­ria are typ­i­cal for this time of year.

Ticks that carry dis­ease in­clude black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks), dog ticks and oth­ers. An­dreadis said two new species of ticks seem to be spread­ing into Con­necti­cut

— the lone star tick and the Asian longhorned tick.

The lone star tick is more preva­lent in the South, but is be­com­ing more es­tab­lished in Con­necti­cut and other parts of New Eng­land. The Asian longhorned tick was de­tected in New Jer­sey in 2017 and has since popped up in Con­necti­cut. Last Oc­to­ber, the Agri­cul­tural Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion re­ported what was be­lieved to be the first in­ci­dent of an Asian longhorned tick

bit­ing a Fair­field County res­i­dent.

To bet­ter un­der­stand what ticks are cir­cu­lat­ing in Con­necti­cut, in April the state launched a new tick sur­veil­lance pro­gram. Ticks will be col­lected at 40 sites statewide through Oc­to­ber. They will be tested and the species of ticks will be tab­u­lated to help de­ter­mine which ones are preva­lent here.

Mos­qui­toes on the hori­zon

But ticks are just one va­ri­ety of pest that cir­cu­late in spring and sum­mer. Mos­quito sea­son is on its way, and An­dreadis said it could be a rough one.

Start­ing in June, the state will be­gin trap­ping mos­qui­toes at more than 90 sites across Con­necti­cut and test­ing the pests for West Nile virus, East­ern equine en­cephali­tis and other ill­nesses. Most peo­ple who con­tract West Nile don’t de­velop symp­toms, or de­velop a rel­a­tively mild, flu-like ill­ness. How­ever, roughly 1 in 150 peo­ple in­fected with the dis­ease de­velop a se­ri­ous or, pos­si­bly fa­tal, ill­ness.

Last year was the worst one for West Nile in Con­necti­cut since the virus was de­tected here in 1999. It in­cluded a record 22 hu­man cases of the mosquito­borne ill­ness, and one death — the first West Nilelinked fa­tal­ity in the state since 2006.

This early in the sea­son, it’s hard to know whether this year will be as bru­tal as last year, but An­dreadis said it’s a pos­si­bil­ity.

“We’ve had a mild win­ter and a very wet spring,” he said. “Those are two con­di­tions that lend them­selves to sug­gest we’re go­ing to have a re­ally siz­able mos­quito pop­u­la­tion.”

As­so­ci­ated Press file photo

A black­legged tick, known as a deer tick, rests on a plant.

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