Tick numbers surge as expected in New Canaan
NEW CANAAN — Last August, New Canaan residents submitted 137 ticks to be tested for Lyme disease by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. The month is not even out and already residents have surpassed last year’s number, with a higher percentage testing positive for for the bacteria that transmits Lyme disease, too.
So far this August, they’ve submitted 191 ticks, 29 of which tested positive. Last year, only 14 of the submitted ticks tested positive for Lyme.
The increased number of ticks was not unexpected after the mild winter Connecticut saw. Even before warm temperatures crept in during April of this year, state officials reported seeing higher tick numbers and Lyme disease infections statewide. On April 17, the state lab said they’d already received over 450 ticks to be tested for Lyme disease and almost 38 percent had tested positive for the illness.
“We have certainly seen the increase in tick submissions this year and we would like to remind all New Canaan residents to be diligent and to perform tick checks upon coming in from the outdoors and if they find a tick on themselves (or their children) they can bring it to our department and we will send it to the state lab for them,” said Jen Eielson, New Canaan’s director of environmental health. “There is no fee and it is a simple, short form to be completed. Also, residents should check their pets for ticks since ticks are hitchhikers and will come in the house on pets.”
According to Gourdaz Molaei, a research scientist for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the Connecticut state tick-testing program, tick numbers will double by the end of 2017. He also said the infection rate has gone up dramatically.
“This sample size is rather low,” he said. “But this is quite consistent with results we’re getting from other regions in our state. The infection rate in our state is at about 38 percent as compared to the average of the last several years of about 28 percent.”
Ticks for testing can be dropped off at the New Canaan Health Department in the lower level of New Canaan Town Hall, 77 Main St. The ticks will be mailed to the state lab free of charge and results are emailed around three weeks later, depending on the number of ticks sent in.
Molaei said the increase in tick infection rates can be linked back to a surge in the population of white-footed mice, the primary carriers of the Lyme bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The mice population has grown thanks to warmer winters, which are a result of climate change.
“Climate change is impacting not only ticks,” Molaei said. “It impacts our behavior in regards to how we expose ourselves to tick bites.”