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Loan star tick population seems to be growing in New York

Jun 16, 2022 12:30 am

Lauren Harkawik is reporting for the Times Union New York residents and visitors are being urged to watch out for ticks this summer. One insect that may be gaining in numbers in the Hudson Valley is the lone star tick, which can transmit the bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis, an illness with flu-like symptoms, as well as alpha-gal syndrome, a condition that results in a red meat allergy. In its adult form, the lone star tick is characterized by a light yellow dot on its back. Rick Ostfeld, disease ecologist and senior scientist for the Cary Institute said, “They’ve been known to occur in this area for a long time, as shown by the 2011 map, but they may now be increasing in abundance.” Unlike black-legged ticks, lone star ticks are quite a bit faster and are capable of pursuing a host. “When they detect a host is nearby, from CO2 or heat we emit, they pursue the host quickly. ... {T]he lone stars really seem to motor, and it can be intimidating,” said Ostfeld. Lone star ticks are found to latch onto turkeys and deer more than on other hosts. Ehrlichiosis, which is passed on by lone star ticks, causes fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and sometimes upset stomach, according to the CDC. The disease can be fatal, but antibiotics typically clear it. Alpha-gal syndrome causes the body to develop a sometimes severe, life-threatening allergy to alpha-gal, a sugar molecule found in most mammals and, therefore, in their meat. There is much still not understood about alpha-gal syndrome, but the CDC says there is growing evidence it may be “triggered” by a lone star tick bite. In a statement released in May, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said prevention of bites is preferable to treatment of symptoms from a bite and she urged individuals to take prevention measures and to take ticks seriously this summer. Common tick-bite prevention measures include wearing long-sleeved light clothing, checking for ticks after being outdoors, performing full-body checks throughout the day while outdoors, and using repellents such as DEET, picaridin and IR3535. Read more in the Times Union.

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