Although I’d prefer not to be the bearer of bad news, there’s no avoiding the fact that it’s tick time in the Upper Delaware River region. My dogs have already had several, and I came home from a 30-minute photo ramble in Pike County recently with four blacklegged tick nymphs making their way up the legs of my pants.
Pennsylvania now has the dubious honor of ranking first for reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. If you spend any time in the great outdoors (and we all should, despite the presence of ticks!), it’s essential to educate yourself about the hard-bodied arachnids that can transmit Lyme disease, as well as various other diseases.
There are two common hard-bodied ticks in the Northeast: the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). The presence of the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum), normally a more Southern species, is increasing as well.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is often transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. While Lyme disease is the most commonly occurring tick-borne disease, ticks can harbor a variety of microorganisms that can be harmful to humans and pets, including Babesia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Powassan Virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and more.
To tackle tick-related issues, Pike County, Pennsylvania has established a Tick-Borne Diseases Task Force as a committee of the Pike County Commissioners Office (Visit www.pikepa.org/tick.html.)
Meetings are held monthly at the Pike County Administration Building in Milford. The aim is to educate the public about the prevalence and dangers of tick-borne diseases, and to provide information on how to protect against becoming infected. The next meeting is scheduled for April 26 at 10 a.m.
In addition, a study was conducted in Milford Borough with East Stroudsburg University’s Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory in which ticks were collected from three sites in the borough and analyzed for pathogens. Of the 100 blacklegged ticks tested, 45% tested positive for at least one pathogen, while 3% of the ticks tested positive for a co-infection of Lyme disease and babesiosis. Future studies are recommended to determine the prevalence of other pathogens transmitted by ticks, as co-infection can result in disease complications, prognosis and treatment.
PA has reported the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the U.S. since 2011, with over 11,443 cases in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As reported in the Milford study, Pike County has had an increase in confirmed cases of Lyme disease from 13 in 2012 to 114 in 2016 (CDC, 2017). Visit www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/index.html for more.