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CNY expert anticipates bad tick season

John Tann

A central New York tick expert is predicting a “really bad" tick season.

Dr. Saravanan Thangamani, an expert in tick-borne diseases at Upstate Medical University, said his prediction is based on data about the tick population in January and February.

"When I say bad, it means the number of ticks that will be out there, the number of ticks that humans will encounter, will definitely be much higher this year than in previous years," Thangamani said.

He blames a warmer and less snowy winter for a greater emergence of ticks.

"We didn’t have proper snow, we didn’t have a proper winter, other than a couple of weeks," Thangamani said. "It’s likely warm and any time when the weather is warm, ticks will come out early and wait for a mammalian host to walk past. As soon as they find a human or pet, they will latch on to it.”

Thangamani also said while he mostly refers to deer ticks, there are more kinds of ticks out there spreading through upstate New York, including dog ticks, lone star ticks, gulf coast ticks and longhorn ticks.

Not only are there more ticks, but the pathogens in ticks that cause illnesses like Lyme Disease are also expanding. Thangamani said this doesn’t mean people should be scared to go outdoors — just be prepared.

"Prepare yourself with proper repellants and treating your outdoor clothing material for an outdoor walk or gardening activity," Thangamani said. "Then do a tick check. Definitely, if you do raking of the leaves at this time of year, I would do a tick check right after the work."

Thangamani has been tracking ticks, allowing people to send in ticks to be tested in New York State through the Thangamani Lab, but that came to an end in March, when funding dried up. He advises anyone who finds a tick attached to their body to call their physician or county health department.

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.