Tick-borne disease in Maine: Part I, statistical update

By Paula Jackson Jones | Sep 23, 2017

Fall is upon us and the mindset is that with the change in weather, we are safe from the onslaught of ticks. However, that is far from the truth. Ticks thrive in moist, cool conditions. While there may have been a reduction in tick sightings toward the end of the hot, dry summer we had, believe me when I tell you that they were there, waiting for the right conditions to become more active.

For the next couple of weeks, my articles will be part of a series, "Tick-borne disease in Maine," and I will be taking focal areas of information and extracting it down into bite-size chunks. I will be covering areas that my readers have asked me to expand upon.

Last fall, Maine saw an increase in reported tick-borne diseases that lasted well into the winter months. This was contrary to what we were accustomed to. This tells us that ticks and the diseases that they are carrying are evolving and we, as a society, need to evolve our thinking and our prevention habits as well.

Some of the latest tick-borne disease data from last week’s Vector-borne Work Group meeting is as follows ( as of Sept. 14):

Anaplasmosis

Total reported in 2016 = 372

2017 Year-to-date = 401

Babesia

Total reported in 2016 = 82

2017 Year-to-date = 84

Lyme Disease -- borrelia burgdorferi

Total reported in 2016 = 1,487 (per federal CDC: multiply 10x)

2017 Year-to-date = 897

Lyme Disease -- borrelia Miyamotoi (a different strain)

Total reported in 2016 = 2

2017 Year-to-date = 7

Powassan

Total reported in 2016 = 1

2017 Year-to-date = 3

Note to medical providers: If you are submitting a report of an infectious disease to the state and they send you back a letter, you must fill it out and return to the state for your patient’s case to count in the surveillance process.

These are just the confirmed cases that have been reported. The state of Maine has received to date more than 2,448 case submissions of tick-borne disease categorized as positive, negative, probable and suspect. There are hundreds more reports coming in waiting to be entered into the system and categorized -- which can potentially raise these figures. Final report comes out in February and can be accessed online. These are just some of the reportable infectious diseases that we have here in Maine, and as you can see, tick-borne diseases are on the rise. You find out more about what diseases are being reported and how each county in Maine is being affected by going to maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/lyme/

On that page, there are many resources for both residents and physicians, including the Maine Tracking Network, State Legislative Reports, current Lyme legislation and even external resources, sites other than the Maine CDC site that have additional information and resources.

Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education is listed as an External Resource because of to the free community services that we provide, from doctor referrals to educational trainings to financial assistance. Also listed under External Resources are the existing guidelines for treating Lyme and tick-borne diseases. I will be covering that in greater detail in next week’s column, Tick-borne Disease in Maine: Part 2, two standards of care, so be sure to check back. Archived articles can be found on our website, mldse.org, under the Lyme Time tab.

Just as our seasons change, so must our thinking about ticks and prevention. We must remain vigilant and consistent with our preferred preventive choices. Continue to treat your skin and clothing, especially as you head out to do yard work, play in the falling leaves and do those hayrides. Do those tick checks.

Continue to treat your pets, the innocents who rely on their people to protect them from unseen dangers as they roam and frolic in the yards and fields. Continue to use preventive options for your home and yard. It’s a habit that you must choose to form; by not doing so, your risk of tick exposure is greatly elevated.

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