Lyme Disease Cases on the Rise in Maine Due to Wet Weather
Lyme disease cases in Maine are on track to reach near-record levels this year, according to data from the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The wet weather in June and July has led to an increase in tick populations, which carry Lyme and other diseases.
As of June, there have been 753 reported cases of Lyme disease, slightly fewer than the 780 cases reported during the same period in 2022. Although the numbers may seem slightly lower, it is important to note that the state recorded a record-breaking 2,617 cases of Lyme disease last year.
Tick-borne diseases like anaplasmosis and babesiosis are also becoming a growing problem in Maine, potentially worsened by climate change. Through June, the state has reported 169 cases of anaplasmosis and 18 cases of babesiosis.
While Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can be treated with antibiotics, many cases go undetected, especially when people are bitten by nymphal ticks, which can be difficult to spot. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fatigue, joint pain, headache, and fever. If left untreated, these diseases can lead to complications.
The wet weather in late spring and early summer has created ideal conditions for tick populations. However, the rainy weather also kept people indoors, reducing their chances of encountering ticks. Despite a 40% decrease in the number of dead ticks submitted for identification compared to 2022, there has been a 40% increase in submissions of deer tick nymphs, which are more commonly found on people during the summer months.
While a prolonged dry period could potentially reduce tick populations, the saturated ground from heavy rainfall may prevent this decrease from happening. As a result, experts are concerned that the number of Lyme disease cases may continue to rise throughout the year.
In response to the growing tick problem, the University of Maine has secured $6.2 million in federal funding for tick research. This funding will support research on finding ways to control tick populations, identifying emerging tick species, and expanding public health efforts.
To prevent tick bites, individuals are advised to avoid leaf litter, wear long pants, and stay on paths when walking in wooded areas. Conducting tick checks and wearing gloves when carrying firewood are also recommended. If bitten by a tick, individuals should watch for symptoms such as a bull’s-eye rash, fatigue, joint pain, fever, and chills. Early detection allows for better treatment and eradication of tick-borne diseases with antibiotics.
Ongoing research on ticks is expected to begin this fall, thanks to the federal funding received by the University of Maine. This research aims to further understand and combat the growing problem of tick-borne illnesses in the state.
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