Climate Change Could Be Contributing to the Rising Tick Population—And Cases of Lyme Disease
Climate change isn’t just being linked to the endangerment of animal species anymore. Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) have begun to release warnings about heightened tick activity in 2019. Speculation implies that changes in the climate are creating a more friendly environment for ticks to multiply at never-before-seen rates.
Ticks thrive in warm, moist environments, which are reported to be spreading during off-seasons to different eco-zones for the last few years. Only a small number of ticks carry specific diseases harmful to humans, but due to an annual increase in temperature and rainfall, those diseases, including Lyme disease, are starting to spread. “From record-setting snow in parts of Texas and Arizona to excessive rain in the southeast, continued precipitation predicted for most of the country this upcoming season will allow pest populations to continue to thrive and multiply,” said Jim Fredericks, PhD, the chief entomologist for NPMA.
From 2016 to 2017, reports of U.S. tick-borne illness have risen from just over 48,000 cases to almost 60,000 cases, a new record. Lyme disease, the most common disease contracted from ticks, accounts for more than 30,000 of those, according to the CDC.
The autoimmune condition is often misdiagnosed, and can lead to a wide range of symptoms, from a dark-colored rash, painful joints and fatigue, to cognitive disorders.
Experts say that protecting yourself from the initial bite is the best way to prevent contracting disease. People who are outdoors often in warm, damp environments, should apply insect repellent and wear protective layers, covering most of your skin. If you notice a tick on your skin, carefully remove it with tweezers, as close to your skin as possible, to avoid its mouth remaining latched on. Some tick-bite symptoms can take one to two weeks to become visible. Catching a tick infection early is key to diagnosis and avoiding further complications. You can also research which ticks are most active in your area to know which diseases you and your family could be exposed to.
Looking to help combat climate change in your daily life? Check out our Lighter Living picks that help you make everyday choices that can help Mother Earth.