Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ticks, Lyme disease creeping northward

From Maine: “When the ground is dry, ticks just kind of hunker down under the leaves...but after a heavy rain, they’ll be out like gangbusters.

The recent cycle of chilly, rainy weather may be discouraging for sun-starved Mainers, but deer ticks, those minute carriers of the organism that causes Lyme disease, are liking it just fine.

“When the ground is dry, they just kind of hunker down under the leaves and they don’t come out until it rains again,” said Chuck Lubelczyk, a field biologist with the vector-borne disease lab at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in South Portland.

Scientists searching for deer ticks to study often strike out when conditions are dry.

“But if we go looking after a heavy rain, they’ll be out like gangbusters,” he said.

Scientists aside, cool, damp weather for deer ticks is not high on most people’s summer wish list. It’s not just because all ticks are creepy little arachnids that bite a hole in the flesh of their host, inject an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing, and then latch on until they are bloated and engorged.

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