Health officials warn about rise in tick disease
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Ticks are active again this season and residents should take steps to prevent tick bites in what’s expected to be a record year for human cases of the tick-borne disease anaplasmosis, the Vermont Department of Health said Wednesday.
The illness is spread by blacklegged ticks — the same tick that spreads Lyme disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, malaise, chills, nausea, cough and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Unlike Lyme disease, a rash is rare with anaplasmosis. The disease can be fatal if not treated correctly.
The number of human cases of the illness jumped from three in 2010 to 201 last year, according to the Health Department. Already this year the number of reported human cases has exceeded last year’s count, said Bradley Tompkins, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the department.
“We’re very concerned about the rate of anaplasmosis that we are seeing all over Vermont, and especially in the southern part of the state,” he said.
Vermonters are urged to protect themselves from tick bites between now and Thanksgiving, when adult ticks are actively feeding before winter, the Health Department said.
Besides anaplasmosis and Lyme disease, the blacklegged tick also carries babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi and Powassan virus. To gauge the prevalence of disease in the state’s blacklegged tick population, officials tested more than 2,000 ticks between 2013 and 2016. Tompkins said 60 percent of the ticks tested positive for at least one disease.
“These numbers mean it’s even more important to be on your guard,” Tompkins said. “It’s easy to think of ticks as a summer concern, but they are out in force right now.”
Officials advise using EPA-registered tick repellent, cover up to keep ticks off of skin and check your body for ticks.