Dill, Elias quoted in Public Integrity report on ticks, Lyme disease

Public Integrity interviewed Griffin Dill, an integrated pest management professional with University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the director of the Extension’s new diagnostic laboratory, for a report on ticks and Lyme disease in Maine. The report also quoted Susan Elias, a vector ecologist at the Climate Change Institute. Fifteen tick species live in Maine; one is considered a public health threat — the deer tick, or blacklegged tick. This species carries Lyme and other diseases, including anaplasmosis and babesiosis. This year, ticks were spotted across the state before the arrival of spring. Reported cases of Lyme disease in Maine have increased from 71 in 2000 to 1,487 in 2016, according to the report. Numbers have been on the rise across the country, as well. Infectious diseases carried by cold-blooded insects like ticks and mosquitoes are subject to alterations in distribution patterns related to even small temperature shifts. Maine’s climate is warming, with hotter and longer summers and milder and shorter winters, making the state a more ideal habitat for ticks. A 2014 study led by a researcher from Canada’s Public Health Agency showed that higher temperatures were correlated with higher tick breeding up to five times in Canada and two times in the northern United States, followed in both places by an invasion of Lyme disease. Also in 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named Lyme disease an official indicator of climate change. Maine researchers have found a strong correlation between milder winters and tick activity, projecting that warming will make the state’s northernmost counties as habitable for deer ticks as the rest of Maine, the article states. Dill is grateful for the new research facility at UMaine, where he can expand surveillance of ticks and test them for pathogens. But, “We’re still so inundated with tick-borne disease,” he said. “We’re trying to plug holes in the dam.”