BRISTOL - An expected increase of ticks and tick-borne diseases in the state this year has public health and veterinary officials talking about prevention and steps that should be taken after being bitten.
“Connecticut ranks as the fifth-highest state in rate of Lyme disease cases per population of 100,000,” said Geoffrey Robinson, physician assistant at Bristol Hospital. “The disease is caused by a type of bacteria known as a spirochete and is carried by black legged [‘deer’] ticks. A bite by the tick can transmit the organism to humans.”
The Bristol-Burlington Health Department is having the public submit ticks to be further evaluated by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station after they were bitten and removed. After analysis, the information will be shared with the health department and the individual who submitted the tick, explained Charles Motes, director of health at BBHD.
“CAES wants people to submit ticks through local health departments, because otherwise there is no follow-up and then they provide advice and share the information found in the evaluation,” said Motes. “There’s more than just Lyme disease. We are also looking for Borrelia Burgdorferi, which is a sort of cousin to Lyme disease and is also found in ticks in Connecticut.”
“Laboratory testing to diagnose Lyme disease involves two separate blood tests,” said Robinson. “If the first test is negative, no further testing is required. If the first test is positive or questionable, the second test is performed. Testing is considered positive for Lyme disease only if both tests are positive.”
According to the CAES, 3,321 ticks found feeding on humans were submitted last year for analysis by health departments, residents and physicians. Of those, 2,235 were tested for Borrelia, the causative organism for Lyme disease, and 28.8 percent, or 630, were found positive. Seven of the ticks submitted were from Bristol with no traces of Borrelia, and 17 submitted were from New Britain with eight testing positive.
In 2016, Lyme disease in Connecticut had a 49 percent infection rate and out of 1,752 reported cases, 1,241 were confirmed positive for the disease. Hartford County had a 25.5 percent rate of infection and 158 out of 228 reported cases were confirmed. Bristol had a 14.9 percent rate of infection, with seven out of nine reported cases confirmed. New Britain had a 19.1 percent infection rate and 13 out of 14 cases were confirmed, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Since Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the U.S., it has caused concern among veterinary professionals particularly since it is frequently being seen this year, explained Cheryl Lepardo, lead customer service representative at Chippens Hill Veterinary Hospital.
“The Companion Animal Parasite Council reported to us that from January to March of 2017, there were over 30,000 cases of tick-borne Lyme disease in the U.S. - 5,000 of which were in Connecticut and 941 in Hartford County,” said Lepardo.
“Prevention of Lyme Disease is a combined effort of vigilance, prevention, testing and vaccinations,” added Cara Sweet, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at CHVH.
“Lyme disease is a potentially serious disease and is relatively common in Connecticut. However, it can easily be prevented if proper steps are taken,” said Robinson. “Early treatment is key to avoiding complications.”
“The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protections and CAES have been warning the public and in turn their pets, about heavy infestations,” said Motes. “Currently we are not seeing more than past years, but the weather is just beginning to get warmer.”