Dangerous Tick Typically in the South Spreading Into New York
A dangerous tick typically seen in the south is spreading north into New York.
The lone star tick is creeping into the Northeast. It carries a virus that may trigger a serious meat allergy called Alpha-Gal Syndrome, which can cause severe itching, anaphylaxis, swelling, and even death in some cases. Scientists say the northward tick expansion is related to climate change.
"These ticks like warm, humid weather and since temperature are staying higher for longer in the north it's inviting more lone star ticks to move in," said meterologist Ari Sarsalari.
Cases of the virus from lone star ticks have been reported in Missouri, Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, and New York. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) said it’s unknown if the virus has spread to other areas of the U.S.
Only 200 cases of ehrlichiosis, the disease-causing the meat allergy virus, were reported in 2000. In 2019, the number of reported cases continues to rise to 2,093 cases.
Although cases of ehrlichiosis can occur during any month of the year, the majority of cases reported to CDC have an illness onset during the summer months with a peak in cases typically occurring in June and July.
Meat allergies aren't the only thing a lone star tick bite can cause. They also carry the Heartland and Bourbon virus diseases, both of which can lead to fever, fatigue, and in some cases hospitalization, and even death, according to the New York Times.
Both viruses have been identified in New York by the Upstate Tick Testing Program, where you can send your ticks to get tested for free.
Where to Find Ticks
Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. If you spend time outside, especially during the height of tick season from April to September, you should treat your clothing with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
Protect Yourself From Ticks
After you come inside, check your clothing to make sure you didn't carry any ticks into the house. Place clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks you may have brought in with you.
Take a show within two hours of coming indoors to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it's also a good time to do a tick check on your body.
Under the arms
In and around the ears
Inside belly button
Back of the knees
In and around the hair
Between the legs
Around the waist
If you find a tick, you can send it to the lab for testing. Learn more at NYticks.org.