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With Number Of Ticks On The Rise, This Season Could Be 'Horrific'

The Wall Street Journal is warning us today that tick season is upon us and because of a series of ecological events, it could be a "horrific" season for the diseases they carry.

But the Journal reports that while some of the uptick (The Journal uses this pun: "This Season's Ticking Bomb") is directly related to this season, there's a bigger narrative here. They explain:

"Between 1992 and 2010, reported cases of Lyme doubled, to nearly 23,000, and there were another 7,600 probable cases in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But CDC officials say the true incidence of Lyme may be three times higher. Other infections, including babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis are steadily increasing, too. While not all ticks carry disease, some may spread two or three types of infections in a single bite.

"Researchers say the primary reasons for the global rise of tick-borne illness include the movement of people into areas where animal hosts and tick populations are abundant, and growth in the population of animals that carry ticks, including deer, squirrels and mice."

The AP reports that this year's mild winter doesn't mean there will be more ticks but that they will be out before people are expecting them.

But what we found interesting is a study done by the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies in New York. It found that this year may be perfect for a large tick population that is very hungry and looking for its next meal — that means you.

Fox News spoke to Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the institute, who explained that in 2010 there was a huge crop of acorns and those acorns led to a big mice population. Ticks had a field day feeding on mice. But last fall, there was a much smaller acorn crop, which led to a smaller population of mice. Now, Fox reports, "this large tick population has grown into nymphs and are ready for their next meal."

"This spring, there will be a lot of black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals—like us," Ostfeld told Fox.

So, what to do? The Wall Street Journal has a good guide on how to avoid tick bites and how to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease.

We'd say one of the easy pointer to follow is to "bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.