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Tick, tick, tick: Experts worry tick problems could explode this year

A Syracuse lab worries that an up-tick in ticks could signal an explosion of Lyme disease and other ailments, although other medical professionals said this has just been a mild spring, and the ticks are coming out to play earlier.

Either way, enthusiasts suggest you wear long pants, maybe tuck them into your socks, and go outside and play, yourself.

Dr. Saravanan Thangamani, professor of microbiology and immunology for Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, said the university’s laboratory received 176 tick submissions from Central New York for the week of March 14 to March 21 through its TickMap project, where people submit tick samples to track their numbers.

“That’s a sign of things to happen,” Thangamani said in a release. “We are anticipating a real uptick in the number of ticks submitted to our lab. This is going to be a huge year for the ticks. Technically, every year is a huge year for the ticks, but we are seeing a gradual increase in the number of ticks humans encounter and submit to the lab. This trend will continue.”

Ticks typically emerge in warmer weather. They can carry bacteria that they get from other animals in the early stages of their life and transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease to humans through salivary glands.

However, Derek Green, environmental health director at the Cortland County Health Department, hesitates to say this will be a bigger season than usual for ticks.

“I think there’s always ticks and they’re always very prevalent and that’s something that we have to get used to,” Green said. “Maybe it’s just people have been bringing them in more to get tested.”

Still, he said this winter has been milder than usual, which means ticks could be more active earlier.

“This is basically typical of what you see,” Green said.

Ilya Shmulenson, executive director at Lime Hollow Nature Center in Cortlandville, said ticks are a problem, but not something that should prevent people from enjoying the woods.

“We tell folks that ticks are a hazard that exists out in nature, but that shouldn’t prevent people from going outside,” said Shmulenson.

His advice: Wearing long pants, long shirts and closed-toe shoes. Make tick checks a routine after spending time outdoors.

“Making a tick check part of your daily route is important in preventing tick-borne diseases,” Shmulenson said.

He said the Forest Pre-School kids make tick checks “just part of the ritual so they can enjoy this unique education.”

“They play several games where they would open their hands and check between their fingers,” Shmulenson said. “If you have a tick on you, that doesn’t mean you have any type of illness, but it’s important to remove it immediately.”

Insect repellent could also be used, too, he said.

Shmulenson said people express to him some anxiety about ticks and the diseases they carry, but said they shouldn’t be afraid.

“It’s just like any other hazard when you’re in the words,” Shmulenson said. “Don’t let ticks suck the fun out of nature.”

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