Experts warn tick season may a bigger problem due to COVID-19 | WHEC.com

Experts warn tick season may a bigger problem due to COVID-19

Jenny Ly
Updated: June 09, 2021 09:50 PM
Created: June 09, 2021 08:05 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — While our attention has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, this year more people will be back out and about, and there is a renewed focus on insect-borne illnesses, like West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. 

Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are a growing concern in our region. There has been a dramatic increase in ticks over the past few decades, and News10NBC’s Jenny Ly looks into what's behind the rise.  

“With climate change, you're probably going to see more of it," Dr. Emil Lesho, infectious disease and internal medicine doctor at Rochester Regional Health said. The season that we're susceptible is extending them and becoming longer."

You don't have to spend a lot of time in the deep woods to be at risk. 

"The most common way is outdoor exposure," Lesho said. "You can walk in the brushes, walk in the grass, you can be in the park, some of the ticks are pretty small, so you don't see them. especially when they're in their baby stages."

Liz Berkeley, whose job at the Cornell Cooperative Extension is to identify ticks, says while often associated with deer, the rise in ticks is also linked to smaller animals. 

"If we have a good year, and there's higher reproduction on small animals like mice and rabbits, then yeah, there's a potential to have more Lyme disease," Berkeley said.

With more than 500,000 cases per year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says the funding for research has not caught up with the increase in cases. 

"That is why I’m requesting $50 million in funding for the Center for Disease Control to further their Lyme disease and tick-borne illness work,” Gillibrand said. “I will continue to prioritize addressing Lyme disease because I want every New York family to spend time outdoors without worrying about facing serious illness from a tick bite."

If you're going outdoors in wooded or grassy areas, be sure to wear tighter clothes around your legs and wear insect repellent that contains the active DEET ingredient to prevent any tick bites. If you think you did get a tick bite, be sure to visit a doctor to seek proper medical attention.

Current and retrospective tick collection and testing results are publicly available on the Department's Health Data NY website.

Click here for more information about West Nile Virus and here for information about tick-borne diseases.


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