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We are all familiar with Lyme Disease and how dangerous it is. Perhaps some readers are avid hunters and if you are anything like my step-dad, you probably have a clothing removal ritual upon returning home from the woods. But preparation may not always be enough to prevent the spread of Lyme Disease anymore.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection carried by ticks that is easily transferred to other animals or humans by bites. First discovered in 1975, Lyme Disease infected 39 children in the small town of Lyme, CT. It quickly spread across the country and today we see around 20,000 cases reported yearly. Currently, the internet is abuzz with articles on how this summer could be the worst for the spread of Lyme Disease. There are a few factors that are playing into this including the mild winter, changes in the composition of the acorn, and the serious decline of red fox populations all over North America.
Cases are expected to increase as there has been an inflation in the amount of infected ticks due to prosperous mice colonies. In 2010, oak trees produced a huge amount of acorns, which are a favorite meal of mice and other rodents. This allowed colonies to flourish and in the summer of 2011, and meant more food for the ticks who feed off of the mice. This propelled and increase in tick populations, which infected more animals and more ticks.
While that is going on, a common mice predator, the red fox, has been experiencing a decrease in population. Coyotes are taking over territories once prominently roamed by foxes, and since they will not den with predators around their numbers of offspring produced have been falling. Since there are fewer foxes to eat small animals including mice, chipmunks and moles, the rodent populations have increased. As mentioned above, mice have already seen a population boom and with one less natural predator to feast on them, there is no natural check for the spread of ticks and the occurring Lyme Disease.
So, when you are out and about this year, make sure to check for ticks! This is especially important if working in high brush, fields, or wooded areas. Carefully remove all clothing that has come in contact with one of these areas prior to entering your home. Always wash any possible tick-infested clothing alone and enlist the help of a spouse or trusted friend to check for any bites or marks. If you feel your house has been compromised, there are household tick sprays you can buy or you can enlist the help of an exterminator. Lastly, if you notice a bite, bulls-eye rash, or even a little tick body feeding on you, consult your doctor immediately.