Record-Breaking Snowfall Helps Ticks In Massachusetts

A Massachusetts tick.

You'd think with the winter we just had that Massachusetts would be free of ticks, but according to Catherine Brown, Veterinarian for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, it may have only made the problem worse. She says, "It is likely that the heavy snow cover we had this winter contributed to significant survival of ticks through the winter." How on Earth is that possible? Brown says, "Ticks spend the winter burrowed under leaf litter on the ground, and snow cover serves to insulate them from extreme cold, which can kill them." So, as it turns out, 9 feet of snowfall is a bad thing. Who knew???

Okay. More ticks survived. What does this mean for me and my family?

According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Northeast region of the United States has some of the highest numbers of reported cases of Lyme disease in the country, and this is only one of the many possible illnesses spread by tick bites. With more ticks in Massachusetts this year, there will be more instances of tick-related illness.

"Lincoln is one of the towns in Massachusetts that has seen a large increase in Lyme disease," says Lincoln Public Health Nurse Maureen Richichi, "We don't have the actual numbers because many people don't even realize that they have Lyme disease, but it is very much an endemic."

What? Most people don't even realize they have Lyme disease?

Rheumatologist Andrea Gaito, M.D., agrees. "It happens frequently that people have Lyme disease and don't know it." Why is this? Lyme disease has a variety of symptoms that can easily be attributed to other illnesses, making it very hard to diagnose if a doctor isn't looking for it. Dr. Gaito says this can lead to "late-stage or chronic" Lyme disease, which is less likely to respond to antibiotics and can lead to lifelong, and potentially debilitating symptoms like: arthritis, heart problems, liver inflammation, severe fatigue, and neurological disorders. Why is it harder to treat after a certain point? Dr. Gaito says it is, "because the bacteria move deeper into the body to places where antibiotics have a hard time reaching, like the brain and joint spaces."

How do I protect myself and my family from tick-borne disease?

  • Wear pants when you travel in the woods or through tall grass. Ticks don't drop on you or jump on you, they cling to your leg and crawl up.
  • Wearing light colors will help you to see them better as they make their journey up your body, in search of skin.
  • Put repellent with DEET on your pant legs.
  • Always check your body for ticks after you've been outside.
  • Always do routine checks of your pets when they come in from outside.
  • Get a tick treatment for your yard from an expert like the pro’s here at American Pest, to kill living ticks on your property. This will keep you and your pets from picking them up and bringing them inside.

There are more ticks out there this year, but it is possible to avoid them. Follow these tips and be vigilant about checking yourself, your family, and your pets.