In the northeastern United States, warmer spring temperatures are leading to shifts in the emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new geographic regions.
Mice, chipmunks and shrews are welcoming hosts for the bacteria ticks spread. They're plentiful. They're low to the ground, so ticks can easily hop aboard. And they lack the immune systems that might compromise any infectious agents.
In the U.S., some 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually. Thousands also suffer from babesiosis and anaplasmosis, tick-borne ailments that can occur alone or as co-infections with Lyme disease.
Podcast A new study in New York reveals that ticks are more likely to be infected with several pathogens, not just the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The ticks for the study were collected from Dutchess County.
To find out how to steer clear of Lyme disease during "picnic season" - a time when people are more likely to pick up ticks - the National Science Foundation spoke with NSF-funded disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute.