Is this summer really supposed to be the worst ever for Lyme disease?
The bacteria that cause Lyme disease and other ailments are transmitted by black-legged ticks, so you’d think that tick abundance would be a good predictor. And Dr. Thomas Daniels, director of Fordham’s Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, as well as Dr. Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, have recently made general predictions about tick abundance.
Unfortunately, they disagree.
Daniels says that because cold weather slows a tick’s metabolism, and snow insulates, “That suggests this will be an OK year for ticks, possibly a good year.”
Ostfeld says tick abundance corresponds to last summer’s abundance of their hosts, white-footed mice. “We’d expect a moderate to low abundance this spring,” he told the Associated Press.
Even if the population predictions agreed, correlations are hard because no one even knows how many Lyme cases occur here: some doctors don’t report Lyme, cases are misidentified, and Lyme is under-reported in endemic areas.
Which leaves one certainty—heed the expert advice: avoid tick habitat; wear long clothing; use insect repellant; and check yourself for ticks.
Oh … and be kind to opossums. These homely marsupials, common in Westchester County and surrounding areas, ingest ticks when they groom, says Ostfeld, about 5,000 each per season.