MONTPELIER, Vt. — The season for tick bites isn’t over yet with a second round coming this fall and health officials in parts of northern New England are warning about a rise in another tick-borne disease other than Lyme.
The Vermont Health Department said late last month that the state is approaching its highest number of reported cases of anaplasmosis, spread by the bite of the black-legged tick, or deer tick, which also transmits Lyme disease. Symptoms of anaplasmosis include fever, headache, chills and muscle aches and can be treated with antibiotics.
So far this year, 133 cases have been reported in Vermont, compared to 139 in all of 2015. And there’s still a tick season left this year.
In over 33 percent of the reported cases, people were sick enough to be hospitalized, compared to just 3 percent for Lyme disease, according to Bradley Tompkins, infectious disease epidemiologist.
Tompkins called anaplasmosis a “serious illness.”
While New Hampshire has seen an increase in reported anaplasmosis cases in recent years from 30 in 2011 to 108 in 2015, there doesn’t appear to be an uptick in cases this year.
Maine, however, has had a spike this summer.
The state had 266 reported cases through the end of August, compared to 186 for all of 2015, said Chuck Lubelczyk, vector ecologist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.
The number of cases tends to peak in the spring and summer when young ticks are active but there’s a surge in the fall when adult ticks are hungry before winter, health officials said.
The spike is a bit of a surprise because dry summer weather cut down on tick numbers, Lubelczyk said.
Some of the hardest-hit areas in Maine were coastal counties, where fog could’ve mitigated the lack of rain. Also, there were healthy small mammal populations thanks to the mild winter, Lubelczyk said.
Officials are warning residents to protect themselves from tick bites.
“Whether you’re doing yard work, admiring the changing leaves, or heading out into the woods to hunt, it’s important to take precautions to prevent tick bites,” Tompkins said.
AP reporters David Sharp in Portland, Maine and Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this report.