The tick population has exploded in Maine over the last 20 years. The reason? Global warming.
Yes, the reason is global warming. Since 1895, average temperature in Maine has risen about 3.6°F (2°C). More relevant is the fact that very cold temperatures have risen much more. Both winter faster than summer, and nighttime faster than daytime, have greatly reduced the effectiveness by which cold temperature helps control the tick population in Maine.
Overnight low temperature during the winter season (Dec-Jan-Feb) in Maine has already risen by a whopping 6.3°F (3.5°F).
Ticks have migrated further north, not just because they are better able to survive hard freeze when there’s so much less hard freeze. It’s also because their primary host species have migrated further north.
The best-known disease spread by ticks is Lyme disease. In 2001 Maine recorded 108 cases (according to the Maine CDC Infectious Disease Program). By 2017 that number had risen to 1,844 — seventeen times as many. More relevant is the number per capita, usually given as the rate per 100,000 people, which has risen from 8.4 to 138.5 — a “mere” sixteen and a half times as big.
Lyme isn’t the only disease spread by ticks, and it isn’t the only disease that has risen dramatically in Maine. The year 2001 saw no cases of anaplasmosis and only 1 case of babesiosis in the state, but 2017 brought 663 anaplasmosis infections and 118 of babesiosis. The rates of these rarer diseases were higher in Maine in 2017 than the rate of Lyme disease was in 2001.
Yes, the tick population has exploded. Yes, the rates of infectious disease spread by ticks have exploded. Yes, Mainers are suffering dread diseases, yes it costs money for medical treatment, yes it costs time and money for lost work and lost wages, yes it sometimes causes death.
And yes, it’s because of global warming.
It’s just one more reason that the politicians who obstruct aggressive action about global warming are working against the health and wellbeing of people. It’s time to make climate change your #1 issue in the voting booth.
Until we do, we’re living the joke about the word “politics” being the union of two words: “poly” meaning many, and “ticks” meaning blood-sucking parasites.
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