Experts warn of disease risks as tick population grows


Mosquitoes aren't the only pest population on the rise in 2014. A brutal winter is also affecting the number of ticks.

Ticks are commonly confused as insects, but ecologists classify them as arachnids in the same family as spiders, scorpions and mites.

Winter's heavy snow acted as a cover for ticks, and experts say the cold doesn't harm them.

"Humidity has a lot to do with it," said Catherine Craker, who worked in the Biology Department at the University of Notre Dame studying ticks for 7 years.

"If you have a less snowy winter, they're most exposed and you might get a bigger die off," said Craker.

While there are hundreds of tick varieties, only three disease carrying vectors affect Michiana. Those are Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Fever.

While the probability of falling victim to a disease carrying tick is still low, a local veterinarian says the pests may be getting worse, when it comes to overall population.

"Previous years, we wouldn't see ticks on cats," said Dr. David Visser of the Center for Animal Health.

"We are actually seeing them on outdoor cats this year. So, ticks are getting to be a little bit more offensive if you will," said Dr. Visser.

Experts say removing the tick within 24 hours will drastically reduce one's chances of contracting a disease.

"It's important to be sure you get the mouth parts, which have little barbs, they attach very, very well, using tweezers or we have a product called Tick Twister," said Dr. Visser.

Another way to avoid disease is prevention. Experts continuously recommend repellents like Deet. Vets suggest flea and tick collars or prescription medication for pets. Others suggest habitat reduction like removing brush and mowing the lawn.

Ticks are annoying to humans and pets, but naturalists say they play a valuable role in the eco-system.

"Ticks are good foods for birds and good for other insects," said Fred DeFerbrache, the Executive Director at Woodlawn Nature Center in Elkhart.

"A high tick population means a healthier woods," said DeFerbrache.

For more helpful information about ticks and disease prevention, click here for a link to the CDC.


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