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Expect another bad tick season this year in CNY

Fairfax County

As warmer weather approaches in New York, tick season moves into high gear, and experts are expecting a bad tick season ahead.

Saravanan Thangamani’s tick lab at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse has already seen a 10% increase in the number of ticks mailed to his lab this year, because of a few warm March days. He’s not surprised.

“Like humans, when we get warm weather, we want to get out and walk in the woods. Ticks are the same,” said Thangamani. “When it is warm, they want to get into their comfort zone, they wait for a warm body to walk by, they latch on a human or a dog. And then when pets go in the home, they drop off and find a human. So human and pet encounters increase when there is warm weather.”

Saravanan Thangamani from Upstate Medical University holds tick submissions from residents
Ellen Abbott
Saravanan Thangamani from Upstate Medical University holds tick submissions from residents

Because we’ve had some warm days in the last several weeks, people are already finding ticks and sending them to Thangamani.

“We are starting to see a trend of an increase and also I know anytime the weather warms, the ticks will immediately come. So it’s the initial shock. Maybe it will go down a bit by the beginning of summer."

Once the thermometer reaches about 45 degrees the ticks begin to emerge and latch on to humans or pets, anything that provides them a blood meal. And with robust reporting early this year, and trends from last year, Thangamani expects a continued increase in tick submissions.

“Last year our lab tested 10,000 ticks which means 10,000 human encounters,” he said. “This year I’m anticipating 15,000-20,000 human encounters will happen, and we will receive the ticks."

Thangamani’s lab gets tick submissions from every county in New York, and more than 1/3 carry some kind of tick-borne disease-causing agent. With the data collected from this program, Thangamani and his team have created a tick map to track the different ticks and disease-causing agents in them.

Anyone can access tick data down to zip codes on Thangamani’s website and identify any tick hot spots. In the meantime, he urges New Yorkers to continue sending ticks to his lab, and take other measures to cut back on tick encounters.

“I think if we can do proper landscaping around our homes and be tick aware and do the tick check. That’s the only way,” he said. “It’s like how we live with the mask now. We learn to live in new ways."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.