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Tick activity is picking up in Mass. Experts fear climate change could extend peak seasons

Tick identification cards seen during a meeting about Lyme disease at the Dover Town Hall in Dover, Mass. (Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Tick identification cards seen during a meeting about Lyme disease at the Dover Town Hall in Dover, Mass. (Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Massachusetts generally experiences two peaks for tick activity, according to the Department of Public Health: from late March or early April through August, and then from October to November.

However, those peaks could get longer in the future as temperatures increase due to climate change.

Ticks are active and looking for food unless they are buried under snow or temperatures drop below freezing, said state epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. Warmer days and less snow would mean that activity starts earlier in the spring, and extends deeper into the fall and winter.

"If you extend peak tick season, you could end up with more cases of disease," Brown said, even if the tick population remains the same. "We've actually already seen that happen a little bit with our mosquito population ... which certainly creates more opportunity for more disease transmission."

In Massachusetts, ticks are known to be carriers for several diseases, including Lyme, anaplasmosis and tularemia. Different tick species spread different diseases.

There are no population-wide mitigation efforts effective for ticks the way there are for mosquitos, according to Brown, so prevention comes down to individual action. The Department of Public Health recommends using tick repellent when outside, checking your body for ticks after spending time outdoors and staying within established paths while hiking.

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Hannah Chanatry Twitter Producer, All Things Considered
Hannah Chanatry was a producer for WBUR's All Things Considered.

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