Sunday, April 30, 2017

Research Finds Increased Infected Ticks in Adirondacks

deer tickPaul Smith’s College’s efforts to monitor tick populations and tick-borne pathogens in the Adirondack region, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, have documented an increase in infected ticks in the North Country.

Focusing primarily on St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn, a team of students and Adirondack Watershed Institute stewards have been collecting blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which are tested by the Department of Health for disease-causing agents. In addition to an increase in the bacteria causing Lyme disease, the researchers have also recently found ticks carrying the agent that causes human babesiosis for the first time ever in the North Country.

Babesiosis, a malaria-like illness historically encountered in southeastern New York and coastal New England, typically presents with fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, and anemia. The infection can be very serious in the elderly, people without a spleen, those with poor immune systems, and if left untreated. Babesiosis is treated with standard antimalarial medications.

While cases of Lyme disease have increased 1.5-fold statewide over the past 13 years, counties in the Adirondacks have seen a twentyfold jump in the same period.

Preventing a bite is as simple as wearing light-colored clothing, tucking pants into socks, wearing an insect repellent, and remembering to check oneself “head-to-toe” at the end of the day for ticks. Sporn added that May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, a timely reminder for all New York State residents to be vigilant for ticks and take actions to prevent tick-borne illness.

Paul Smith’s College field researchers, who collect ticks by dragging cloths in the understory vegetation, have found that tick populations are still patchy in the North Country. High density areas are typically found at lower elevation sites, but blacklegged ticks can be found throughout the region.

While tick bites can happen year-round, even on 40-plus degree days in the winter, both people and pets are especially susceptible in mid-May through July, when nymphs are out seeking a host. The young ticks are small and more difficult to spot.

Nearly half of the adult blacklegged ticks, and a quarter of the nymphs, that were collected in North Country counties tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, also known as Borrelia burgdorferi.

One potential predictor of Lyme disease risk in humans is cases in dogs, since they are often more likely to encounter ticks than their owners. In Franklin County, 26 percent of dogs tested show exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi. The number of human cases of Lyme disease reported in Franklin, as well as Clinton and Essex counties, increased by nearly 200 percent from 2012 to 2015.

Paul Smith’s College researchers and the New York State Department of Health collect and test ticks for five different pathogens that could affect humans. While Lyme disease is a major focus in the Adirondacks, this summer researchers will further investigate the prevalence of the pathogen causing babesiosis, which was found in about 12 percent of adult blacklegged ticks in an area near the border of Clinton and Essex counties last year.

Photo: Female Deer Tick, courtesy Agricultural Research Service.

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26 Responses

  1. Bellota says:

    Increase in ticks? Global warming?

    • Paul says:

      Yes, everything is caused by global warming.

      • Bellota says:

        Here is a link for an article published in 2015 regarding the climate change in northern colder areas and the increase in the tick population-

        • Paul says:

          Bellota, did you read the article. In it they say that it is the “resurgence” of forests and the increase in the deer population that has lead to more ticks. The scientists they quote specifically says “it has little to do with the climate”. In Canada where they are seeing an increase they said there that it also probably has nothing to do with the warming climate since it is also spreading south where it is warmer. Not sure why the journalist labeled the picture the way he or she did since the folks they talked with in the article said there is basically no real correlation going on.

          Climate change is a huge problem but it is not helpful to just knee jerk label everything as being caused by it.

  2. Lisa says:

    Regarding the increased incidence of Lyme disease in the counties referenced we should also consider that the disease was present but not being honed in on in the past. If an individual was not tested for the disease it could not be reported as such. Thank you to Ms. Sporn for her research and her efforts to increase awareness.

  3. J D KEITH says:

    The research here seems pretty settled and accepted. I have a couple of questions:

    What is the source of confidence I the testing of dogs for B.Burgd. when the test in humans is reputedly highly inconclusive (producing many false positive and false negative results)?

    And, what is the incidence of Babesiosis in ticks? How does it’s transmission to humans correlate or differ alongside Lyme?

  4. Kyle says:

    Keep your immune system strong, don’t take pharma antibiotics under any circumstances and worry not.

    • Paul says:

      Yes, and in the case of a Lyme disease infection you will have a life of painful arthritic type symptoms or worse and serve as a reservoir for the disease for others to also become infected. You don’t get Lyme because you have a weak immune system (my son has a very strong one when he got it) you get it from the parasite described above carried by this tick.

      No one should take your advice unless they want us all back to the sad world prior to these medical miracles where we watched lots of people (with good immune systems) suffer and die. Antibiotic use should be kept to a minimum but no use of these drugs is insane.

      John I don’t think it is a good idea to let folks post dangerous comments like this that fly totally in the face of science but I know you want to let people speak their minds.

  5. Marc Wanner says:

    “Preventing a bite is as simple as wearing light-colored clothing, tucking pants into socks, wearing an insect repellent, and remembering to check oneself “head-to-toe” at the end of the day for ticks.”

    Those are good measures, certainly. But when it’s 90 and humid, who’s going to wear long pants, let alone tuck them into your socks (what socks?)

    And the nymph stage deer tick is so tiny it is barely visible– if it gets into your hair (pubic or otherwise) you’re just not going to find it until AFTER it has bitten you, when, with a little luck, the bite will itch and you MIGHT have a rash you notice.

    I was lucky enough to get an itchy rash (not bulls-eye shaped) and a brutal headache. Milder symptoms could be much easier to miss.

    So yes, take all the usual precautions. But don’t kid yourself– you could still get bitten. So pay attention to rashes, itches, etc. If it gets to the late stage or chronic infection, you’re in for a world of trouble!

  6. Dick Carlson says:

    This is as current a research as any out there. This is a VERY cryptic disease – hard to detect and test and harder to treat.

  7. Carol Peck says:

    A relative of mine was bitten by a tick wth Lyme disease 4 years ago. He was vigilant and checked for ticks but missed that one which burrowed into his skin at the top of his sock. It wasn’t until several months later he began to fall often. An avid hiker and very health conscious person he sought medical help. After 8 doctors attempts to diagnose this and additional precious time passing, the eighth doctor diagnosed Lyme disease. After massive doses of 4 different strong antibiotics to rid him of the Lyme disease, he now faces a life of dibiltation due to the motor neurons being destroyed, diagnosed now with parallel lateral sclerosis. He has great difficulty walking with two poles and looks to the future with a long life, but continued downhill condition. There is no cure for his illness.
    His advice? As soon as you know you have been bitten, get diagnosed, and treated. Don’t put it off.

    • Boreas says:

      Too bad they can’t develop a vaccine for it. In my area, it isn’t a question of IF you get bitten but WHEN and how many times. Unfortunately, the infecting bite doesn’t always create a noticeable rash. About the only good thing is that the disease usually isn’t transmitted until the tick begins actively feeding. That can take many hours.

      Another issue is with pets. the veterinary community is conflicted as to which animals may become infected with tick-borne illnesses, and which can become symptomatic. I had a cat that was sick for months with a “fever of unknown origin”. She frequently was host to deer and dog ticks as my yard is filthy with them and the animals that carry them. She was given several antibiotics over several months and eventually recovered to about 90%, but a certain organism was never found. I didn’t have the cash to invest in expensive and extensive testing to find out. Basically, these organisms are usually treated with antibiotics and the animal/person either gets better or they don’t. The longer the infection continues, the more likely it is for permanent damage to occur.

  8. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: “Yes, everything is caused by global warming.”

    All sarcasm aside Paul there is an air of truth to what Belotta says and it only makes sense that the more the planet cooks the likelihood of seeing palm trees above the mason dixon line within a few short years is high. Every thing is not caused by global warming but truly I believe the heat from the sun effects the brain in such ways as to make many people light-headed, almost to the level of imbecilic…to the extent they start denying reality.

  9. Charlie S says:

    Kyle says: “Keep your immune system strong, don’t take pharma antibiotics under any circumstances and worry not.”

    Paul retorts: “John I don’t think it is a good idea to let folks post dangerous comments like this that fly totally in the face of science but I know you want to let people speak their minds.”

    Charlie replies…. I’ve been using oil of oregano for many years. When I spend a day out in the fields and find a tick on me afterwards and i’m weary of a tick-borne illness I load up on oregano oil just to play it safe. I have used it as an antibiotic for years and they’ve been saying for years that oregano oil has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.

    I believe society at large would benefit greatly in all aspects of their lives if all doors were left open. If we should be taught from an early age onward the art of open-mindedness we would benefit greatly. We all have different chemistry and what works for some may not work for others.

    • Paul says:

      I agree. Yes – Kyle was the one that suggested that we shut the door on antibiotics. Many prescribed antibiotics come from a natural source just like the one you describe.

      And many academic labs and commercial companies are very open minded and looking all over the place for new novel treatments and antibiotics. I work with many of them every day.

    • Boreas says:


      How do you use oil of oregano? Or does one just chug it down like castor oil?

      • Paul says:

        It looks like it might cause miscarriage if taken in amounts that Charlie is suggesting so I would be careful with it if you are pregnant or planning on it.

        And high doses can lead to a buildup of toxic thymol in your liver so proceed with extreme caution when taking Charlies advice here.

        I will continue to sprinkle the dried up version on my meatball subs and use it in my spaghetti sauce

      • Charlie S says:

        Do not chug Boreas. Very potent stuff and it has to be the right kind to have real benefits, it has to be a certain kind of oregano. There’s a science to chemistry and after a while you get to know companies and their products and of course there’s the web where every thing you need to know is a few key-pecks away. You know that! Don’t believe me don’t believe every thing people say, especially online…..look into whatever and see what everyone else is saying then use your own individual judgement. I’ve learned many things by trial and error and am still learning and still alive. Have not done a pharmaceutical in well over 20 years. How long this will last I don’t know. Very small doses Boreas..two drops under the tongue once or twice a day, not every day, sometimes twice or three times a week, sometimes once a week, once a month…however I feel about it I act with this product. I’m still alive! They’re saying it works for tick-borne illnesses and giardia also. Who knows? This I do know! People by the thousand lots are becoming incapacitated or dying every year from pharmacy prescribed drugs.

        • Boreas says:


          Does it taste any better than castor oil? I am thinking of giving it a try. If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know how it worked!

          • Charlie S says:

            I like your humor Boreas. I could use a few good laughs!

            My niece tried oregano oil recently not expecting the extreme bitter taste it had. Be forewarned! And remember I am not a doctor am just passing along my experience. It’s not cheap stuff….2 oz (?) cost about $50. and it should last at least a few years. I do the stuff on a whim and when I’m insecure about some medical condition arising………… Make sure you look into it first as for this oil to have real benefits it must be the right kind of oregano. Do your research before you do remedies. There’s a sizable book out on this one product alone…it’s benefits and uses. The more we learn the more we find there’s a lot we’re not being told. Have ya heard? Keep in mind that placebo has been known to work also.

  10. Charlie S says:

    What amounts did I suggest Paul?

  11. Charlie S says:

    ” People by the thousand lots are becoming incapacitated or dying every year from pharmacy prescribed drugs.”

    Which is not to say pharmaceuticals are all bad they’re not. I would never suggest that because it is not true. One thing that is true though….this society is over-prescribed. Why? There’s money in drugs.

  12. Charlie S says:

    In another post Paul responded to this post: “Paul says: It looks like it might cause miscarriage if taken in amounts that Charlie is suggesting so I would be careful with it if you are pregnant or planning on it.”

    Again…what amounts did I suggest Paul?

    And high doses can lead to a buildup of toxic thymol in your liver so proceed with extreme caution when taking Charlies advice here.

    What advice did I give?

  13. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: “And high doses can lead to a buildup of toxic thymol in your liver so proceed with extreme caution when taking Charlies advice here.”

    Yes and I recall a doctor prescribing Prevacid for my diagnosis of acid reflux some years back, a $400. per month prescription. I filled out one prescription (paid for by insurance) but never touched one of those pills. Instead I called my homeopathic doctor and he prescribed an over the counter all-natural remedy that could only be found in certain health food stores and they only cost about $40. for a months supply. The symptoms that I had for acid reflux for years….disappeared within a few months I believe it was and they’ve been gone since. I never heard of acid reflux until I was diagnosed with it and since then I have come to find many people have been diagnosed with the same and they have been doing Prevacid a few years and they still have their acid reflux, plus this drug causes liver damage.
    Moral of this story….proceed with extreme caution when taking doctor’s advice!

    • Boreas says:


      Unfortunately, this is what MDs are trained to do. Not only that, but a distressed, sick patient wants to leave with a silver bullet that will cure him/her. FWIW, osteopaths (DO) have slightly differing training and tend to push medicine a little less.

      A big part of the problem is that Big Pharma doesn’t seem to look for cures any more. They want to sell a lifetime of “maintenance” drugs like high blood pressure, diabetes, hi cholesterol, arthritis, and pain medication. Agreed, many of the medicines are great and can add significantly to the quality of life, but wouldn’t a CURE be better for the PATIENT? Most of the brand name medications and medications in development aren’t even affordable for the average person. I just heard of a new antihyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) drug coming online that costs $14,000/year. They are actually going to offer a money-back guarantee if you have a stroke or heart attack! Cool, huh? Probably won’t be on my healthcare formulary for a while…

  14. Charlie S says:

    I’m optimistic about the future of traditional medicine Boreas.I know for a fact that many of them do save lives but too often they are out of reach because they are too expensive. But for drugs for high blood pressure and heart conditions and other common medical conditions…these are not to be taken lightly. One of my uncles did not take his blood pressure medicine and he had a stroke, then was laid up in a nursing home for two years before the great gig in the sky came down to take him away. I’ve heard some positive news by different speakers about the future of traditional medicine and I’ve seen the benefits of it in at least my father’s case who is in his 93rd year and is a miracle considering the heart condition he has. I believe his positive thinking has quite much to do with why he is still around.

    Yes a cure would be great and truly I believe they are working on cures but from what I’ve been hearing the US is not necessarily cure friendly. Per instance they refuse treatments for certain cancers so people are going to Mexico for this same treatment and being cured, and I hear those hospitals in Mexico are just as clean and as professional and as good as they are here. Makes me wonder about this supposed great country of ours that I hear so much about.

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