Expert weighs in on possible link between climate change and Lyme Disease

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The summer may be over, but it’s actually peak season for adult stage deer ticks.

University of Rhode Island tick expert Dr. Thomas Mather said he collected around 130 ticks in one hour in South Kingstown on Wednesday afternoon.

A recent study in the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology suggests a link between Lyme disease and climate change. The study assumes if the United States warms according to the mid-century U.S National Climate projections, Lyme Disease cases could increase by 20%.

Mather said data that models future disease patterns are very important, but he points out that like weather models, they don’t always get everything exactly right.

“It’s great if it works out, but so often it doesn’t work out quite as well as the model predicted that it would,” Mather explained.

Mather feels an increase in Lyme Disease reports might not be directly related to an increase in tick numbers. Instead, he thinks it’s more an issue of their ability to spread through their hosts.

“Deer clearly are becoming more urbanized so that’s allowing ticks to get into more urban settings where people have greater density,” Mather said.

Mather also believes that the temperature might not be the biggest climate factor for tick populations.

“We know from other studies that, really, relative humidity is a key factor,” Mather explained.

Mather and his team are always interested when someone comes across a tick. If you come across a tick, submit a tick report to help further his research.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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