BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — According to researchers at the University of Maine, nearly 40 percent of Deer tick samples in Maine tested positive for Lyme disease in 2019.
The University's Cooperative Extension Tick Lab has released the results from its first ever annual tick report, which looked at more than 2,600 ticks submitted by volunteers from each of Maine's 16 counties between April 1. and Dec. 30, 2019.
Deer ticks were by far the most common species found, followed by the American dog tick and woodchuck tick. An overall rate of 38.8 percent of Deer ticks had the causative agents of Lyme disease.
The report also found a smaller percentage of ticks tested positive for two other tick-borne diseases; eight percent had Anaplasa and six percent had Babesia.
Symptoms of Anaplasmosis and Lyme disease are similar in humans. Both involve a fever, swelling, fatigue, joint pain, and neurological problems. According to Maine's Center for Disease Control and Prevention there were 1,461 cases of Lyme disease in 2019, up seven percent from the year before.
However, according to the CDC only about five percent of Lyme patients require hospitalization, compared to about 25 percent of Anaplasmosis patients.
Maine Senator Susan Collins co-sponsored the TICK Act, which was recently passed by Congress, to improve funding for the research and diagnosis of tick-borne diseases.
Sen. Collins tweeted about the University's tick report after she received the Congressional Lyme Champion Award from the Center for Lyme Action.
A majority of ticks submitted to the University's lab were found by people gardening, doing yard work, or hiking. 95 percent of the ticks found were feeding on a person. Most participants found the tick on their legs, or on their front or rear torso.
Manager of the Tick lab, Griffin Dill, said he hopes the study raises awareness of just how prevalent infected ticks are throughout Maine. "People are thinking about ticks when they go hiking or camping, but maybe they're not thinking about them as much when they're gardening, doing yard work, or picking vegetables for dinner."
Maine researchers are also looking into how climate change might be affecting tick habitat and lifespan. Researchers said ticks thrive in moist, warmer condition, which might explain the reduced tick activity in late 2018 when the region had an early November snow, and the increased tick activity in late 2019 when there wasn't as much snowfall.
Dill says the lab's first tick report will give a baseline for future research on tick population and diseases throughout Maine.