HOULTON, Maine — COVID-19 could have elevated Maine residents’ potential publicity to ticks, in keeping with a brand new report from the College of Maine.
Modifications in folks’s actions throughout COVID-19, similar to spending extra time outside to keep away from shut contact with different folks, led to extra alternatives for tick encounters, in keeping with UMaine’s 2020 annual report from its Tick Surveillance Program.
Of the greater than 3,000 ticks voluntarily submitted to this system, 36 p.c got here from individuals who reported spending extra time outside in 2020 than they did in 2019, similar to in gardening and yard work or in forested habitats, the report mentioned.
Whereas the research was depending on voluntary submissions and subsequently restricted in scientific scope, it confirmed a rise within the variety of folks participating in out of doors actions, in addition to the share of ticks carrying illnesses amongst these submitted to the tick lab.
“This improve in out of doors exercise, coupled with best climate situations throughout the spring and fall peaks in grownup blacklegged tick exercise could have contributed to elevated tick encounters statewide,” the report mentioned.
The blacklegged tick, often known as the deer tick, can carry pathogens that trigger sicknesses similar to Lyme illness, placing individuals who are available in contact with them at severe threat.
Different illnesses, similar to anaplasmosis and babesiosis, are additionally attributable to pathogens present in ticks, though they aren’t as frequent as Lyme illness. With the spring season underway in Maine, ticks are already rising this 12 months.
“Once you’re caught at residence, there’s not a number of different issues to do aside from get exterior and attempt to benefit from the outside,” Griffin Dill, coordinator on the UMaine Tick Lab, mentioned. “And we discovered some pretty vital numbers of folks that had been indicating that sure, they certainly elevated their time outside primarily based on the pandemic.”
About 66 p.c of the blacklegged ticks submitted to the UM lab got here from across the individual’s personal residence in 2020, in keeping with the report.
The variety of tick submissions to the lab general went up by greater than 500 from the earlier 12 months, from round 2,700 in 2019 to greater than 3,200 in 2020. Probably the most generally submitted tick was by far the blacklegged tick, adopted by the American canine tick and the woodchuck tick. Of all of the blacklegged ticks submitted, 36 p.c examined optimistic for Lyme illness.
The coastal counties of Cumberland and Hancock had essentially the most tick submissions, with greater than 400 every. The county that had essentially the most prevalence for Lyme illness amongst submitted ticks was Lincoln County, with 115 out of 257 submitted blacklegged ticks, or 44 p.c, testing optimistic for the pathogen. The report famous that as a result of the ticks are collected and submitted voluntarily by members of the general public, there could also be bias towards some geographic areas over others relating to places.
The report additionally confirmed a noticeable change in how folks encounter ticks in comparison with the earlier 12 months. Whereas gardening and yard work remained the highest exercise for tick encounters, there was a 13 p.c improve within the quantity of people that had been taking part in exterior, and a 4 p.c improve in individuals who got here throughout ticks whereas mountaineering.
However out of doors actions like fishing, looking and tenting ranked amongst a number of the lowest on the checklist. Dill mentioned the decrease percentages could possibly be partially attributed to much less safety when being exterior at residence as in comparison with getting ready for an out of doors expedition.
“Our normal thought course of is that a number of the occasions once we are planning to exit, a number of us know that ticks are a menace,” Dill mentioned. “We’re going to convey precautions, we’re going to convey repellents, we’re going to put on protecting clothes. Whereas if you happen to’re simply taking a stroll or doing a little yard work, that thought course of may not be there.”