Feature

Health scare of the week: Big trouble with ticks

Experts warn that warmer-than-normal spring temperatures are allowing ticks to become active earlier than usual.

Warmer-than-normal spring temperatures are allowing ticks to become active earlier than usual, auguring an increase in tick-borne illnesses, experts warn. “This is going to be a horrific season, especially for Lyme [disease],” Leo J. Shea, a professor at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, tells The Wall Street Journal. Lyme’s indistinctive symptoms—fever, extreme fatigue, chills, and headaches—make it difficult to diagnose. Yet left untreated, it can cause long-term damage to many parts of the body, including the brain, heart, and muscles. Over the past 20 years, known Lyme disease cases have doubled, but most infections are going undiagnosed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. In addition to Lyme disease, ticks carry babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis—all of which are also on the rise—and a single bite can transmit more than one infection. Researchers say rates of the diseases have increased as more people move into tick territory and as global warming allows Southern tick species to spread northward. To avoid bites, experts recommend wearing long sleeves and insect repellent when walking in wooded areas, and to closely inspect pets after time outdoors.

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