With all the focus on coronavirus, the season for a malady that was in a lot of headlines in the Northeast is heating up.
We mean tick-borne Lyme disease and other pathogens.
As Aaron Cerbone of the Adirondack Daily Press wrote this week, physicians, infectious disease experts and tick-borne illness experts are worried people may forget these days that another viral danger lurks in the woods.
Tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, babeosis or anaplasmosis have symptoms that overlap with those of COVID-19: fever, weariness and a nondescript unwellness.
These diseases do not, however, include a cough, like COVID-19 does. Healthcare providers will have to consider tick-borne disease and COVID if patients show an isolated fever, experts say.
Ticks have been spreading throughout Upstate New York. The arachnids are able to survive in more northern climates and at higher altitudes than before, and their populations are expanding — as are the types of diseases they carry.
The relatively mild winter, with few deep freezes in Western New York, only means that there could be more ticks in the spring woods.
This time of year is more dangerous for tick bites than later in the summer because the adults are out now after the winter and will be laying nymphs soon, which the CDC says are more common to carry diseases.
Physicians and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are warning people to socially distance themselves in the woods, even though they are less likely to catch the novel coronavirus in the great outdoors than in a contained space.
But ticks don’t socially distance. They cling to tall grasses and forest underbrush, waiting for a host to walk by and pick them up.
Ticks are not born with diseases, but they pick them up throughout their lives as they go around biting animals. These diseases can then be transmitted to the humans they bite.
The DEC recommends wearing tick “personal protective equipment” when out in the woods. Light colors are best so one can see dark-colored ticks on them. Other precautions echo what people are already doing to avoid COVID-19.
Vigilance is important — after any jaunt through the woods, people should shower and check themselves all over for ticks.