If you live in a light green area of this map, you probably don’t need to read further. However, if you live in or visit the yellow or red areas, read on.
The map came out of a study on Lyme disease published in the February issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Highlights of the study are as follows:
- High-risk areas fall across much of the Northeast, from Maine to northern Virginia, as well as most of Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and a sliver of northern Illinois.
- Emerging risk areas are the Illinois–Indiana border, the New York–Vermont border, southwestern Michigan and eastern North Dakota.
- About 1 in 5 ticks collected were infected with Lyme disease, which was higher than expected. This number did not vary much across geographic areas.
- In 2010 there were more than 30,000 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease. More than 90 percent of the cases occurred in the states mentioned above.
Where I live in the Hudson Valley region of New York, they have issued a Lyme disease warning for this year. They are predicting it will be the worst year ever for the threat of Lyme disease. Due to a bumper crop of acorns in 2010, which led to a larger population of mice, who are excellent hosts for the bacteria that spawns Lyme, there was a larger population of infected ticks lying dormant this past winter. Fewer mice in 2012, due to a small crop of acorns last fall, will mean the infected ticks are looking for something to bite!
Richard Ostfield, a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies who has been helping to spread the word in our region, advises residents to roll their socks up over their pant legs and spray pants, shoes and socks with repellent. It’s not enough to spray your pants and not your shoes and socks.
I would add to this advice wear gloves when you garden. Our new garden gloves with arm saver have elbow-length cuffs with a stretch cord that tightens the top of the cuff. It’s lightweight cotton, so it will keep ticks from crawling up your hand to your arm, and it protects against light scratches and sun—without being hot to wear. In 2010 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and was treated with a course of antibiotics, but I never had any symptoms.
Dorian Winslow is the president of Womanswork, and is passionate about making the best products on the market for women who garden and work outdoors.
Horticulture publishes the free weekly e-newsletter, "Smart Gardening Tips," and "The Curious Gardener," a free monthly e-newsletter with more tips and articles by Dorian. Subscribe to our e-newsletters.