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Environment

Connecticut's Tick 'Crisis' Won't Be Going Away Anytime Soon

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Patrick Skahill
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WNPR
Goudarz Molaei directs the tick-testing program for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. "We are in the midst of, unfortunately, a public health crisis," he said.

More and more ticks in Connecticut are testing positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It’s a trend the head of the state’s tick-testing lab doesn’t see abating.

“We are in the midst of, unfortunately, a public health crisis,” said Goudarz Molaei, a research scientist and director of the tick-testing program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.

This year, Molaei said of the more than 2,600 ticks tested, nearly one in two are infected. That means they are carriers of the agents that cause Lyme disease in people.

It’s a rate up about 10 percent from what the lab has seen over the past several years. And a trend Molaei doesn’t see slowing down anytime soon.

“[The] tick problem here will stay with us. New tick-borne diseases will emerge,” Molaei said. “Tick range, and disease range, will expand and will be going further north.”

Molaei attributes the uptick in infected populations to a lot of factors.

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Credit Patrick Skahill / WNPR
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WNPR
"It is believed that for Lyme disease agents, a deer tick is required to be engaged in blood feeding at least for 36 hours," Molaei said. "But there have been cases that a tick has been engaged in blood feeding for less than that ... but still people got Lyme disease."

Human encroachment into wildlife zones is one. Climate change and more hot and humid days are another. And the continued growth of mammal populations, particularly deer and white-footed mice, which aid ticks in reproduction and disease transmission, could be one of the biggest reasons why Connecticut and the northeast are seeing more and more infected ticks.

“We will witness new tick-borne pathogens that we haven’t seen before,” Molaei said.

Because of all that, Molaei said cover up when you’re hiking and always do tick checks after spending time outdoors.

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