Rutgers Experts Can Discuss Threat of Winter and Early Spring Tick Bites, Lyme Disease


Expert Pitch

New Brunswick, N.J. (March 11, 2019) – It’s possible for ticks to bite and spread disease during warm spells in winter and in early spring, and Rutgers Professor Alvaro Toledo and Professor Dina M. Fonseca – both entomologists – are available to comment on what New Jerseyans and others need to know.

“Although the blacklegged tick, which spreads Lyme disease, is mostly active as an adult in the fall, it can also bite in the winter and early spring,” said Toledo, assistant professor in the Department Entomology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “While very low winter temperatures restrict tick activity, adult blacklegged ticks often become active during winter’s warmer days. To prevent tick bites, it is important to reduce favorable habitat in backyards, where people are frequently bitten. Keeping yards clear of leaves, tall grass and brush, and stacking wood in a dry area, helps prevent tick bites. Being bundled up also helps, but ticks can still grab onto your pants or coat and maneuver to your skin to feed on your blood.”

Professor Dina M. Fonseca, director of the Center for Vector Biology in the Department Entomology at Rutgers–New Brunswick, notes that “blacklegged ticks are highly sensitive to drying out and can be killed by bouts of dry weather. The exceptionally wet weather in 2018 could favor exceptionally large populations of ticks this year, increasing the threat of Lyme disease and other pathogens they transmit.”

Last year through Nov. 3, there were 3,092 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, actual numbers of Lyme disease cases may be 10 times higher on average.

The state health department has a fact sheet and other information about Lyme disease and its prevention.

The Rutgers Center for Vector Biology and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station websites also have information on ticks.

Toledo is available to comment at alvaro.toledo@rutgers.edu Fonseca is available to comment at dina.fonseca@rutgers.edu

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