First statewide surveillance program for ticks and tick borne diseases in Connecticut reports Fairfield County has the highest tick density.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station, a national leader in tick research, conducted a federally funded study of tick populations in Connecticut. Noteworthy findings of the report include:
- Highest Tick Count in Connecticut is in Fairfield County: Fairfield County had the highest count of ticks in all of the 8 research areas tested.
- Most Common Tick In Connecticut is a Carrier for Lyme Disease: tick (otherwise known as the deer tick or Ixodes scapularis) was the most commonly collected species. This tick is the primary vector for Lyme and other zoonotic diseases.
- Two New Invasive Ticks Found In Fairfield County: Two new species of ticks, the Lone Star Tick and the Asian Longhorned Tick, were found for the first time in Fairfield and Loudon Counties.
- 50% of Ticks Tested Positive For Lyme: All female and nymphal blacklegged ticks found in the study were tested for the major disease causing pathogens likely to infect dogs and people. Nearly 1 out of every 2 was positive for the agent that causes Lyme disease.
- New Tick Diseases Identified in Humans: Three confirmed cases of hard tick relapsing fever and five cases of deadly Powassen encephalitis were identified in the report.
2021 Tick Forecast: Average-to-Moderately High in Connecticut
Contributing Factors to 2021 Tick Population Forecast
The National Weather Service predicts a warmer-than-average spring and summer and an average rate of precipitation.
- Humidity, Cold, Heat, and Snow Cover All Affect Tick Population: There are four factors that contribute to the size of tick population in Connecticut: The severity of the winter preceding the tick’s active period, the amount of snow cover preceding the tick’s active period, predicted levels of spring and summer humidity, and how hot it is during the tick’s active period.
- Snow Cover in 2020 Had An Insulating Effect: Though it was very cold this year; consistent, heavy, snow cover could have served to insulate ticks.
- Blacklegged Ticks Are Naturally Tolerant To Cold: Another factor to consider is the blacklegged tick’s natural tolerance for cold.
- Long-range Forecasts Predict A Warmer 2021 Spring and Summer: According to the National Weather Service, our area will be unseasonably warm with an average predicted rate of moisture.
Based on these factors, most scientists agree that the tick population in Connecticut in 2021 will be average-to-moderately high.
“When you get a bumper acorn crop, two years later you get lots of infected blacklegged tick nymphs,” Dr. Ostfeld said. And in 2019, we had a mast year — a heavy production of seeds that provide food for many animals, including rodents like white-footed mice.”
Dr. Richard Ostfield, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in an interview with the New York Times.
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Tick Borne Disease Rates In Connecticut Remain High
Though tick population size may be no worse than it has in previous years, it’s important to note that insect-vector borne infection in people and dogs remains high. Between 2004 and 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that diseases caused by biting fleas, ticks and mosquitos tripled. According to the CDC’s latest data, Connecticut has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest number of reported Lyme disease cases in New England.
1 In 8 Dogs In Connecticut Tests Positive For Lyme
The number of dogs testing positive for Lyme disease in 2020 in the U.S. was highest in New England. In Connecticut in 2020, 1 in 8 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease. According to January and February data, this rate has remained the same in 2021. About the same number of dogs test positive for anaplasmosis, and about 1 in 50 test positive for ehrlichiosis.
Risk For Cats
According to Dr. William Miller, a veterinarian at the Cornel Feline Center, cats are relatively resistant to infection by the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but are susceptible to other tick borne diseases that can cause lethargy, swollen joints, fever and more serious long term kidney issues. Though Dr. Miller emphasizes that risk of tick borne disease in cats is low, he recommends that cats be protected against ticks with the use of topical medications like Revolution or Seresto cat collars and that if pet owners find a tick on their cat they should remove it. Says Dr. Miller,
“If you spot an attached tick,” he says, “remove it with forceps or tweezers. Reach below the tick’s body, grab it close to the head where the tick is attached to the skin, and apply steady traction to pull it out. You want to be sure to get the whole thing. And if it’s a female, there will be eggs inside the body, and you want to get rid of them in a safe manner.”