Scientists are predicting a dangerous tick season this year, and Hoosier health professionals are keeping their eyes on the little vectors.
Researchers, like Indiana University biology professor Keith Clay, say Indiana’s warmer winter means more ticks survive from summer to spring.
“It’s also conducive to the animal population they depend on for blood meals, mice, chipmunks other small rodents,” says Clay.
Clay is also a member of the Prepared for Environmental Change Research Team – a newly-funded effort to measure the impact of the environment on things like public health, including an increase in insects that carry diseases.
IU School of Medicine Microbiology Immunology department chair Dr. Stan Spinola says, in Indiana, those diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis.
“The one I fear the most is Rocky Mountain spotted fever, because there is a fairly high mortality rate associated with that disease if it’s not recognized and treated,” says Spinola.
Spinola says, luckily, all three diseases are easily treated with antibiotics, and a tick has to be attached for two to three days to transit.
Both experts point out the number of ticks transmitting disease is slowing increasing. Clay says environmental changes are at play.
“They are increasing due to climate change, due to human land use, due to our own activities,” Clay says.
In Indiana, there were about 100 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2014, compared 26 cases eight years earlier.
Health professionals recommend taking precautions against ticks like using repellent, wearing long sleeves and doing tick checks.