Health Officials Warn Lone Star Ticks Multiplying In State
As if Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert was not busy enough handling coronavirus issues, she is now grappling with the news that the aggressive lone star tick is proliferating in the region.
Culbert, who has made tickborne disease education a hallmark of her administration, told The Newtown Bee this week that the latest news from colleague Goudarz Molaei, PhD, at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) is disturbing considering how many local residents are already suffering from related illnesses.
“The Newtown Health District is always concerned about tick bites and tick-borne disease, and news of the lone star tick becoming established in the region adds to the concern,” Culbert said. “Although our office has not yet received a lone star tick submitted to our office for identification yet this year, I am not naive enough to think that they aren’t out there.”
Review Connecticut's latest information about the lone star tick by CLICKING HERE
Dr Molaei, a research scientist in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the station’s Center for Vector Biology & Zoonotic Diseases, reported June 23 that the rapid range expansion and established populations of the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) in Fairfield and New Haven counties provides the catalyst for altering the dynamics of a myriad of existing and emerging tick-borne diseases in the state and throughout the Northeast.
Previously limited to the southeastern US, lone star ticks have been detected in areas with no previous record of activity including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Established populations of this tick species have now been documented across most of southern New Jersey, Long Island, Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut, coastal Rhode Island, and on Cape Cod and the Islands.
According to Dr Molaei, who also directs the CAES Tick Surveillance and Testing Program, the number of lone star ticks submitted to the CAES tick testing laboratory increased by 58 percent from the period of 1996-2006 to 2007-2017, mainly from Fairfield County.
Established populations of lone star ticks were discovered in Fairfield and New Haven counties in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and further establishment in New Haven County was documented on June 17.
As an aggressive human biter with highly irritating bites, the lone star tick has been associated with several human diseases and medical conditions, including tularemia, ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis, Heartland virus disease, southern tick-associated rash illness, red meat allergy, and likely the newly identified Bourbon virus disease.
“Rising global temperatures, ecologic changes, reforestation, and increases in commerce and travel are important underlying factors influencing the rate and extent of range expansion for ticks and associated disease-causing pathogens,” said Dr. Molaei. “It is anticipated that warming temperatures associated with climate change may lead to the continued geographic range expansion and abundance of the lone star tick, increasing its importance as an emerging threat to humans, domesticated animals, and wildlife.”
Depending upon the annual weather condition, adult lone star ticks are usually active from mid-March to late June, nymphs from mid-May to late July, and larvae from July to September.
“I don’t always want to sound like a naysayer — I really do want residents outdoors and enjoying our beautiful and healthy environment,” Culbert said, “just use caution. Like so many things we need to do to promote our health, it’s a balancing act.”
It is important that the public and practitioners develop a heightened awareness of the health risks associated with emergent tick vectors such as the lone star tick and their potential for changing the dynamics of tick-borne diseases in Connecticut and throughout the northeastern United States.
“Residents need to be ever vigilant about preventing tick bites every time they spend time outdoors, and also being vigilant about bathing when coming indoors and checking for ticks,” added Newtown’s health director. “Early intervention to prevent a tick bite, or at least prevent or interrupt the tick’s feeding, can make the difference between health and tickborne illness.”
The state offers detailed information about the CAES Tick Testing Laboratory, personal protection measures, tick control measures, and tick-associated diseases.
CLICK HERE for the Tick Management Handbook; or
CLICK HERE for CDC resources.