Even though the summer season is officially over, the effects of deer ticks are still being felt in Rhode Island.
The population of the tiny insect has exploded this year, causing a jump in the number of Lyme Disease patients.
Dr. Najam Zaiti from Prima CARE joined The Rhode Show to explain.
Why is Tick borne illness and Biology of ticks an important topic in New England?
The Environment and fauna in NE makes it an ideal home for a certain species of Tick.
Since 1978 when Lyme diseased for first characterized; we have become more aware of Tick borne diseases.
Ixodes scapularis the hard bodied tick found in the area thrives in leaf fall frequented by its favorite hosts white-footed mice and white tailed deer.
Their feeding on blood of vertebrate species over a period of days and disgorgement of its own body fluids into host in large volumes is ideal for transmitting bacteria, viruses and parasites.
It can transmit three commonly known pathogens and one less so;
1. Borrelia burgdorferi (Pathogen that causes Lyme disease) which is a Spirochete and like another well characterized spirochete of Syphilis can if not treated survive in the host for a long time mimicking arthritis, neurological diseases and causing heart blocks even death. Well known by its characteristic Target like rash.
2. Anaplasma phagocytophila which can cause a quite severe and sometimes deadly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Like disease. Causing low blood counts, fevers and serious life threatening complications.
3. Babesia microti causing a malaria like illness-this is a blood borne parasite which may cause serious illness in people with liver disease and immune compromise
Another illness recently characterized in Borrelia miyamotoi a disease which is Lyme like or relapsing fever like.
Where and why are ticks found here?
- Nice area for leaf litter which this species likes to lay eggs on and over winter
- The hosts species deer and mice abundant here
- Reforestation or Agricultural lands lapsing back has lead to increased shrubs and trees that Ticks and deer both like
- Humans habitations and forays have increased into this environment
- Areas Like Block island, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard have high tick densities-and these are coming back to mainland (Human and birds)
- The Environment: Winters less harsh; less predators for deer-population explosion and more time for tick transmission
- The parasitic organism (s) may be be also changing under genetic selective pressures
What can we do?
- Be aware-We have to live here so
- Avoid areas known to have ticks
- If living in places outside of Providence in Wooded area-Check yourself and animals for ticks-:”Tick aware”
- It takes more than 2 days for the Tick to feed and transmit Lyme disease less so for Anaplasmosis; but often during a check ticks found just attached or about to attach
- Environment Control: Animal proofing; Wood chips around property; there are acarisides (pesticides) some are even biologically more natural;
Vaccine- None yet but the last one which sold poorly was effective and demand is increasing so who knows? Last Vaccine Lymerix sadly pulled off market in 2002 amongst poor sales, tepid government support; and ill conceived reports that it made you ill-it was also cumbersome to give required 3 shots and boosters.