Incidents of tick-borne diseases are on the rise throughout Connecticut and other parts of the country, especially in the Northeast. Researchers are also reporting an increase in the overall number of ticks.
Health officials claim this is the worst year ever.
Scientists at the Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven have seen over 5,000 ticks come in for testing over the last six months.
They normally see an average of 3,000 over the course of a year, according to Dr. Theodore Andreadis, director of the facility. But it’s not just Lyme disease they’re concerned about. They’re are seeing more cases of other tick-borne illnesses including the Powassan virus.
“There have been multiple human cases that have been reported in neighboring New York in the Hudson River Valley, in Massachusetts, and we had our first human case in Connecticut just this past year,” Andreadis said. “The concerns with this particular virus are: there’s no treatment; it can be transmitted by ticks in a matter of minutes of feeding; and in some cases, it can cause encephalitis, and can be fatal. There’s no cure.”
While only 2 to 3 percent of the ticks have tested positive for Powassan, Andreadis said the virus is emerging, adding that more funding is necessary to address the issue of tick control.
Officials said residents need to take precautions if they spend time outdoors, especially in wooded areas. They advise using repellents, wearing long sleeves and pants, and conducting tick checks.
Andreadis spoke to reporters in New Haven along with a research advocate and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who announced an effort, on the federal level, to assemble a Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.