Tests find lots of ticks carrying Lyme disease bacteria

With high tick populations due to warm winter temperatures the last two years, residents are being warned about the risk of infection from the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

The Tick Testing Program at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station announced Monday that high percentages of the ticks tested thus far carry the pathogen.

Dr. Goudarz Molaei, director of the tick testing program, said that of the 450 ticks tested thus far this year, nearly 38 percent have the Lyme disease bacteria. Another 10 percent carry the causative agency of babesiosis, and five percent carry the agent for anaplasmosis.

Over the past five years, the Tick Testing Laboratory has received 12,483 ticks from Connecticut residents or health departments for testing. On average, 27 percent tested positive for the Lyme disease agent, the experiment station said in a news release. In tests in 2016, the highest percentage of ticks with the Lyme disease bacteria were from Windham County, where 54.5 percent carried the pathogen, followed by New London County, where 40.3 percent had it, the experiment station said.

“Although we have yet to reach peak tick activity this spring, adult deer ticks are already active and biting residents in greater numbers,” Theodore Andreadis, director of experiment station, said. “At this time of year, personal protection measures and conducting tick checks remain the most effective ways to reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases.”

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease affects an estimated 329,000 people across the country each year and can cause severe damage to joints and the nervous system. According to the state Department of Public Health, there were 2,553 reported cases of Lyme disease, 286 cases of babesiosis, and 120 cases of anaplasmosis in Connecticut in 2015.

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