Multi-State Effort Begins to Study Dramatic Tick Increase in New England
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Scientists in rural New England are working to better monitor and manage tick populations as climate change helps fuel their dramatic increase.
Cases of tick-borne illnesses have skyrocketed in the region, while new tick species have expanded their range further north, posing risks to both humans and wildlife.
University of New Hampshire Clinical Associate Professor David Needle said scientists will collaborate on data collection as well as education and public outreach on how to stay safe.
"General thought is," said Needle, "the number of cases and impacts from tick-borne diseases are grossly underestimated by what we actually see and what's been tested."
Needle said the data collected could also serve as a warning system for farmers and vets to better protect livestock by knowing when to utilize protective chemicals, potentially saving not only the animals lives but preventing financial losses for rural communities.
Increasingly mild winters in New England have helped ticks to thrive at a time when they are normally dormant. And that is altering the regional ecosystem - causing a dramatic die-off of moose calves, for example.
Needle said as tick populations increase, scientists need to better understand their patterns and where diseases could emerge next in both wildlife and humans.
"At the very least," said Needle, "we're going to be generating data and real information about where pathogens are and where ticks are and the data will hopefully provide opportunity for intervention at the public health level."
The two-year project involves scientists with the Universities of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Needle said he hopes the data can provide a baseline for scientists to follow in the future.
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