As the summer hiking season kicks off, scientists say more ticks in Connecticut are testing positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Connecticut's Agricultural Experiment Station has been testing ticks for Lyme Disease since 1990. Over the last 25 years the state has gathered a lot of information about black-legged, or deer ticks, which transmit the Lyme disease to humans through bites.
Gourdarz Molaei is a research scientist with the state. He said his office has examined nearly 12,000 black-legged ticks during the last five years.
On average, scientists found about 27 percent of ticks tested positive for the Lyme-disease bacterium. "However, this year, we are early in the season, and we have found that nearly 34 percent of these ticks are infected with Lyme disease," he said.
That's a seven percent increase over the average of the last five years.
Molaei said one obvious explanation for the rise is an increase in deer populations. Changing weather and temperatures are also being considered -- although Molaei said drawing any correlation there is beyond the scope of his office.
The experiment station is also reporting an increase in two other infections carried by black-legged ticks -- babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Both can cause fevers, muscle pain, and headaches. Rates of those pathogens are still relatively low -- but the state will be tracking it.
Meanwhile, Molaei said people headed outdoors this summer should walk in the center of trails, wear bug spray, and always shower and do a tick check after a hike.
Interactive map by Charlie Smart for WNPR.