Tick Expert: Ticks Expected To Expand Range In NE This Year

May 3, 2018

This spring and summer, more New England residents could be exposed to the tick that causes Lyme disease, according to a local tick expert. 

Black-legged ticks, which are the only ticks in the region that can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, has been expanding its range for the past 10 years. 

Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island's TickEncounter Resource Center, said one main reason is due to an uptick in the deer population because of reforestation and fewer hunters.

"As the deer become more abundant and more habituated to living in closer proximity to people, that’s what I believe is changing the equation so that more people are likely to be exposed to these black-legged ticks," Mather said. 

The adult female black-legged ticks depend largely on deer to reproduce. After feeding on the animal, they can produce thousands of offspring. That offspring can then contract the germ causing Lyme disease from rodents and pass it on to people. 

Mather said ticks are especially active on humid days and less active when the air is dry. 

To stay safe, Mather recommends doing daily tick checks and wearing clothes and shoes treated with a chemical tick repellent called Permethrin. 

Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and a rash that resembles a bull's-eye.