After a mild winter, experts warn of a particularly bad tick season in 2021.
East End Tick & Mosquito Control phones rang “off the hook,” owner Brian Kelly said. And even though he’s taking precautions himself, he found a Lone Star tick on his chest last week.
“They don’t just happen on beaches and parks, these tick encounters, but most of the calls I get are from people who find ticks in their own backyards all over the East End,” a- he declared.
Experts say the lack of deep frost on the ground this winter, combined with a large acorn harvest two years ago, has allowed tick populations to thrive.
“Mice like to feed on these nuts and if mice have a lot of food they are the reservoirs for tick-borne diseases,” said Dr Anna-Marie Wellins of Southampton Hospital. “So no more food, no more mice, no more ticks, no more infected ticks.”
This corresponds to the trends observed by some doctors. Dr Erin McGintee, who is on the medical advisory board of the Southampton Hospital Tick Resource Center, said the number of alpha-gal allergies she had diagnosed in 2020 was ‘significantly higher’ than in 2019. Alpha-gal, which is associated with Lone Star ticks, causes allergic reactions to red meat.
She doesn’t really focus on other tick-borne illnesses, but Suffolk County tracked higher Lyme disease infection rates among ticks in Southold in 2020 – at 58% in adult ticks. black-legged, it was 20% higher than the infection rate in 2019. The Lyme disease infection rate in nymphs of this species has remained relatively stable at 46% versus 44%.
“I have a few theories,” Dr. McGintee said, referring to the higher number of alpha-gal diagnoses. “I don’t know if my theories are correct. But… one thought was, it’s just because we have so many people here.
She pointed out that the population of the East End has increased during the pandemic. “Maybe the summer people went out in March and never left,” she said. She also suggested that the pandemic may have caused people to opt for more outdoor activities than usual, causing higher exposure.
“And then I think the third reason could be that the more years this allergy has been around, the more people become aware of it,” she said. “So people may be more likely to recognize their symptoms as an alpha-gal allergy and seek evaluation and testing for it.”
Dr Wellins, who has also seen more and more patients worrying about tick-borne illnesses, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I think… the public is more and more educated and they are pulling the strings earlier, they are more vigilant than they have been. So I think education works, ”she said.
Dr Wellins pointed out that deer, which often carry ticks, are also more displaced, forcing them to migrate to residential areas.
“I was in Southampton Village [and] there was a doe in the parking lot, ”she said. “It is not uncommon to see them walking in the street, on the sidewalk.
Craig Jobes, town of Southold environmental analyst and a member of the deer management task force, said the deer population was no longer “exploding” and the town “was at near record highs. every season now, as far as the harvests are concerned. ” “, But they” still have difficulty in bringing down the population “.
“I mean, do [deer] have an effect on the tick population? Yes. But there are other factors as well, ”he said.
Deer are not the only species that carry ticks. Dr Wellins said ticks will attach themselves to any animal, including dogs and humans, and feed for a few days before falling.
Mr Jobes also expressed his concern about the Lone Star tick. Of the three East End tick species, he said they were the “most aggressive”.
“Years ago we never really had them here and then all of a sudden, say six or seven years ago, they really blew up with them. And these are really prolific species of ticks, ”he said.
Dr Wellins said what people think are bites of chiggers, tiny arachnids, are actually bites from Lone Star larvae. There are no chiggers on Long Island, she said.
“[Female Lone Star ticks] lay… a nest of eggs, and you enter these areas with your bare feet or sandals. Now these larvae are much more aggressive than deer ticks, ”she explained.
Dr. McGintee called the Lone Star a “tick hunter”.
“It really actively searches for prey,” she said. “It detects carbon dioxide from people and animals, and it will actually chase you. Like if you are sitting on your lawn and a Lone Star tick senses your carbon dioxide, it’s not like it is tripping over you. He will actually follow you.
Jonathan Malewicz, a resident of Mattituck, said he had already encountered “too many” ticks this year.
“You kind of always have to check if you’re outside,” he said. The other day, he added, he checked his dog and “there must have been at least 15 ticks on him.”
“He’s an indoor dog,” Malewicz said. “I don’t know if he rolled into a nest. But it was in our backyard, [and] we don’t have deer coming into our yard, just squirrels and birds and things like that.
The Town of Southold publishes information on how to prevent tick bites and what to do if you find a tick on yourself, both online and at kiosks at the entrance to its networks of trails. Southampton Hospital’s Regional Tick-borne Disease Resource Center also has online information, as well as a tick removal helpline and doctor referrals at 631-726 -TICK. They also offer free personal tick removal kits, which can be requested on the helpline or by email. [email protected]
Dr. McGintee recommends that anyone with suspected alpha-gal allergy see an allergist. She advises, however, that people shouldn’t get tested for alpha-gal unless they show symptoms.
“I know it sounds a little scary to people, because they say oh, I had a Lone Star tick, so what am I supposed to do, wait to eat meat and have anaphylactic shock , then go see an allergist? And the truth is, it’s probably somewhere in between, ”she said.
As with other food allergies, it is possible to see a false positive test result.
“On the other hand, if you have a Lone Star tick bite, it might not be the smartest thing in the world to go out and eat a huge burger two weeks later,” he said. she adds. “Because we know that if you develop an alpha-gal allergy, you are at the greatest risk for a reaction within a few weeks of a Lone Star tick bite. And we also know that larger portions and fatter meats are more likely to cause bigger problems. ”
Dr. McGintee recommends that people watch their meat intake for the first month after a bite, to make sure they can tolerate leaner, smaller portions of meat without any symptoms. She pointed out that the alpha-gal allergy causes “acute allergic reactions occurring three to six hours after ingestion of mammalian meat, usually fatty mammalian meat.” The most common symptoms are itching and hives, followed by gastrointestinal symptoms.
In the meantime, Dr Wellins has said to “take the time to protect yourself”. She put together a list of tips:
• Wear long pants and long sleeves, which will also help protect you from the sun (but be careful to stay hydrated).
• Insect repellent or lemon eucalyptus oil on arms, legs, neck area – anywhere that is exposed.
• Wear light-colored clothing and avoid sandals.
• Wear tight socks over your pants. “Not very trendy, but it works.”
• Wear rubber boots or waders in the garden.
• If you are outdoors regularly, treat your clothes with permethrin (or buy pretreated clothes). You should do this outside so there is good ventilation. Very important: Do not apply permethrin to the skin. Effective for limited washes. Apply only to fabric (sneakers maybe, but not boots).
• Sometimes rolling a lint roller when you’re outside will catch ticks before they have time to get under your clothes.
• When entering from outside, put your clothes in the dryer – the high heat will kill ticks on the clothes. Do this before washing, what ticks can survive.
• Take a shower after going out, then check for ticks. “They like to attach themselves to warm, dark places, like behind the knee and the groin area, or the lower back, under the arms and sometimes the neck area.” Daily checks are important.
• Have your property treated against ticks by a professional. Dogs and other pets could be potential carriers.
• If you find any on your body, remove it immediately using tweezers or the like and get as close to your head as possible. Pull it up and use alcohol to disinfect the area afterwards. “There are a lot of old wives’ tales that we tell people to never use” – don’t use petrol or a lit match. Not only could you injure yourself, but the tick can regurgitate its stomach contents, potentially speeding up the transmission of pathogens. After removing it, put it in a sealed transparent bag and take a photo. Enlarge the photo to identify the tick.