Warmer winters bring tick-infested springs

Article by: KEVIN GILES, Star Tribune

Updated: January 20, 2012 – 10:47 PM

Disease-carrying pests don’t die off without extended cold snap.

“If enough ticks are able to find suitable conditions, they can survive from year to year and their populations expand,” said David Neitzel, an epidemiologist at the Health Department.
But just as warm winters can keep ticks alive, so can heavy snowfalls that protect them from harsh temperatures, Neitzel said. And that’s the contradiction — unusual warm weather this winter has ensured that even modest snowfalls melt quickly. Ticks also need wet conditions to survive.
“They’re more exposed so they can either freeze solid or dry out if they don’t have enough leaf litter,” he said. “Even if a bunch of them are killed, [their numbers] seem to recover.”
It’s that persistence that worries public health officials. Anyone who spends time in wooded and brushy areas should report symptoms such as fever and rashes to a doctor, Neitzel said.

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