If you are from Westchester, NY, or the Connecticut area you are probably aware that the spring and summer seasons are the most prevalent times of the year to contract Lyme disease. You’ll also recall that this past winter delivered a lot less snow and frequent high temperatures compared to the typical Northeast winter. While this was beneficial for safety on the roads and a lack of school cancellations, it is envisioned to be detrimental when it comes to the spread of Lyme disease.
In order for Lyme disease to thrive in a specific area, the geographical location must offer three things: ticks, deer and infected reservoirs such as small rodents. Deer are the mammals that ticks breed on. Although they are often covered head to toe with the arthropods, they are never infected. Borrelia Burgdorferi, the spirochete shaped bacteria that is responsible for Lyme, doesn’t actually survive in the blood of deer.
When an Ixodes tick hatches it is completely free of Borrelia Burgdorferi, even if its mother was infected with the spirochete. During this first stage of life, the tick is called a larva. In order for the larva to grow, it needs a blood meal. The larva acquires B. Burgdorferi when it feeds on something infected with the spirochete. In most cases, this is the mouse. Small rodents such as mice will carry the bacteria in their blood at all times if infected. It is estimated that 30 percent of mice are infected with Borrelia Burgdorferi.
After its blood meal, the larva tick molts into its next form. During the tick’s next stage of life it is referred to as a nymph. Nymph ticks will search for their blood meal most often during late spring and early fall or anytime the temperature is above approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit. During periods which provide these conditions, the nymph tick is very active and eager to feed. Nymph ticks will feed on practically anything they can get a hold of, and this is how humans become infected.
After the final molt, the nymph tick is now an adult. Although adults do feed, their main priority is to reproduce. This is where the end of the tick life cycle and beginning of the life cycle meet, which takes place as mentioned previously, on deer. The adult tick winds up back on the deer to lay its eggs and eventually dies off.
So why exactly is 2012 predicted to be the worst year for the spread of Lyme disease? The warmer weather in regards to the effects it has on the life cycle of the tick. A warm winter provided ample amounts of extra time for feeding and reproducing allowing the ticks to be active in spreading Lyme disease earlier in the year.
Be sure to protect yourself and check your body for ticks after spending time outside! And remember, Lyme disease is not the only infection that ticks transmit! For more information on the life cycle of ticks and more, check out this website:
For more information about Lyme disease, check out my past blog post: