As summer weather in the northeastern United States heats up, so does the danger of Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks. Determining the risks of getting bitten by ticks and possibly contracting the sometimes devastating disease have been almost impossible – until now.
This year, the chances of getting Lyme disease can be reduced by paying close attention to the Fordham Tick Index. Developed by biologists at Fordham University’s Louis Calder Center, the Tick Index is unique. It measures the risk of encountering the disease-bearing insects in the Westchester, Putnam and Rockland County areas north of New York City.
The Tick Index samples tick abundance at a site in central Westchester. These data will be combined with historical patterns of tick activity to provide an index of the relative risk of being exposed to host-seeking deer ticks in the region. The Index will range from one to 10, with an index of one representing very low risk and 10 representing very high risk.
The Index will be updated, and a new fact about ticks or tick-borne diseases provided, weekly until November at www.fordham.edu/tick.
“While the exact relationship between tick abundance and tick bites in an area is unknown, previous studies have shown that there is a correlation between tick abundance and Lyme disease cases,” said Thomas J. Daniels, Ph.D., the Fordham associate research scientist who led the team that developed the Index. “The Tick Index will enable residents to plan outdoor activities and exercise proper precautions to prevent tick bites.”
Daniels has been studying deer tick populations and the techniques necessary for measuring tick abundance for more than 25 years. He is co-director of the Calder Center’s Vector Ecology Laboratory, which studies ticks and mosquitoes that transmit diseases.