An increase in ticks and tick bites is associated with warmer weather, but new research suggests that the threat exists throughout the year in New Hampshire. They also found the presence of a new pathogen among ticks collected by volunteers in the state. ( Daniel Bahrmann | Pixabay )
A new study by BeBop Labs reveals an unpleasant truth: Tick bites occur throughout the year, not just during spring and summer, as previously thought.
The Plymouth-based citizen science study said the threat of tick-borne disease declined during the winter, but did not entirely disappear unless the ground was covered with snow. The conclusion was drawn after an analysis of about 1,654 ticks sent by volunteers last year. Of the total, 1,100 were dog ticks and 554 were black-legged ticks frequently found in deer.
The results were posted on the non-profit group's website.
Tick-borne Diseases in New Hampshire
The analysis found that between a quarter and a half of the total ticks collected throughout the year can cause at least one disease, usually Lyme. Meanwhile, between 5 and 10 percent of those sampled carried pathogen anaplasmosis.
Babesia, which is usually attached to black-legged ticks, appeared in samples from some counties but not from others. For example, in Merrimack and Rockingham County, about 12.5% of the ticks contained the pathogen.
The study also combined public data from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Lab of Medical Zoology and Ticknology.
"When we look at what time of year we find tick-borne diseases there was no trend," said Kaitlyn Morse, who runs BeBop Labs in Plymouth. "It really looks like there are diseases all year long, down to coinfections, no spikes, no tendencies."
These are only the findings of the first year of non-profit group research. That said, Morse warned about the interpretation of the data.
She reiterated that the study reflects only the activity of the tick in the past year. She believes that to identify a trend or a pattern, there needs to be at least three years of data.
Morse also pointed out that some of the municipalities are not well represented.
"But it's, I think, an indication of what's out there," he added.
First documented case of a new disease pathogen in New Hampshire
The researchers also confirmed the presence of another pathogen called miyamotoi among the ticks analyzed for the study. This is the first documented case of miyamotoi in ticks in New Hampshire, the study said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, miyamotoi has already been detected in black-legged ticks and black-legged ticks in North America. A bit of an infected tick can cause fever, chills, headache, joint and body aches and fatigue.
The researchers warned that miyamotoi appears to be as common as babesia in collected ticks. They found in 5% of the ticks in Grafton County, for example.
Tick bites become more common in the warmer months, but there are ways to avoid them.
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