Toxic tick uptick
It's full-on Spring. The woods and the grassy places beckon. Last year, in the lonesome Spring of Quarantine, people who had rarely stepped off the sidewalk discovered the pleasures — and consolations — of nature. Adults and children are out there again now, probably recollecting when the back yard was the safest place to be and glad to be able to venture farther afield.
Nature is not all carefree and touchy-feely, alas. It's hard to think of a benefit to humans and other mammals from the existence of ticks, other than their place in the food chain as bird feed and oppossum meals. These tiny predators of much larger prey have been around for tens of millions of years. Their size makes them easy to miss until they have made the bite that can carry diseases just as dangerous and lingering as Covid-19.
A new worry surely doesn't seem fair after all we've been through, but the spring and summer of 2021 are predicted to be particularly good for ticks — and bad for humans who encounter them. The Associated Press reported this week that the state counted more than double the number of ticks through April 30 than it did last year. Tick experts at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station say that shorter, warmer winters and longer, wetter springs and summers are contributing to the tick uptick.
The best-known disease ticks inflict upon humans, dogs and deer, among other mammals, is Lyme, but this year brings to Connecticut some new species and some new illnesses.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, whose motto is "Putting science to work for society since 1875," runs two tick surveillance programs, one "active" and the other "passive." The CDC and the state Department of Health, agencies which have been in the news daily for leading the fight against the pandemic, also support the tick surveillance work. The health department monitors cases of tick-borne disease, but unlike Covid, these have no vaccines.
A habit of prevention is the best way to avoid getting sick, just as it was in the first year of the pandemic. Last year we suited up with masks and hand sanitizer; this year the outfit had better include long pants, long sleeves and tick repellent. Check children and pets and oneself for any ride-along ticks. As we are now used to saying: stay safe.
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