Migrating blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease follows

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Lyme disease diagnoses are on the rise, and they're happening in places previously "Lyme-free." New research suggests Lyme-carrying blacklegged ticks are quickly colonizing new habitat on the East Coast.

Lyme disease has been diagnosed in 49 states. Almost every state in the U.S. hosts ticks. Lyme disease is especially common in the Midwest and Eastern United States.

But even along the East Coast, there are large pockets thought to be free of ticks. However, new research suggests these tick-free places are quickly disappearing.

The research -- compiled with the help of scientists at the New York Department of Health and the State University of New York at Albany -- showed that ticks consistently migrate from south to north in short intervals. The northernmost climes are the areas most recently populated, migrating ticks having arrived in the far Northeast some 14 years ago.

Deer ticks, or blacklegged ticks, travel by attaching themselves to migrating mammals and birds.

"From a control perspective, if you know they are moving extremely easily, you could control them in your backyard but they might be back in a week," Khatchikian explained. "If we want to reduce tick populations over the long term, this means we have to start thinking about more sophisticated approaches."

Khatchikian and his colleagues hope to continue their research to better understand what factors -- whether climate change or land use trends -- influence tick migration patterns.

So, how can you prevent ticks, tick bites and Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a multisystem inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and then may spread to the joints, nervous system and, to a lesser extent, other organ systems in its later, disseminated stages according to the National Pest Management Association.  

  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and closed-toe shoes when outdoors, especially in wooded areas or tall grasses. Choose light colored clothing that makes it easier to spot ticks and other insects.

  • Wear a bug spray containing at least 20% DEET when outdoors, and reapply as directed on the label.

  • When hiking, stay in the center of trails, away from vegetation.

  • Take steps to keep your own yard tick-free. Keep grass cut low and remove weeds, woodpiles and debris, which can attract ticks and other pests.

  • Be on the lookout for signs of tick bites, such as a telltale red bull's eye rash around a bite. If you suspect a tick has bitten you, seek medical attention.

  • Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease and consult with your doctor immediately if you believe you have contracted it.

  • If you find a tick in your home or suspect you have ticks on your property, contact a licensed pest professional who can inspect and recommend a course of action to reduce or eliminate ticks on your property.

The National Pest Management’s tick prevention tips are just a few simple steps, which can make a difference in protecting your families from the health risks associated with these pests. As tick populations increase in the northeast, it is imperative to take steps to prevent tick bites. Your yard should never be a place to worry about ticks, so protect yourself and your family from ticks with a pest control company who performs routine tick treatments. 

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