EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 19, 2012

There are more ticks around this spring

There will be no recreation nature walks this summer in Plaistow because of the high risk of tick bites.

"We're not doing that much in the woods this year," Plaistow recreation director Carli Malette said. "We want to keep the kids safe and Lyme disease is always a big concern. Basically, we're going to struggle."

The mild winter helped a lot of ticks survive — good news for them, not so good for humans and dogs.

"Most ticks have two-year life cycles and there were relatively good numbers going into the winter," said Alan Eaton, an entomologist with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. "We had a mild winter, which contributed to good tick survival. Then the snow melted early and it warmed up early, which triggered very early activity."

The only thing stopping this year from being even worse is that the weather has been dry, he said, which can kill off ticks.

"If we had regular rain and more of it, we would have even higher numbers of ticks active and looking for hosts," Eaton said. "We'll see what happens from here on in. The riskiest time of year is June."

The risk posed is posed by tick-borne disease, according to Jodie Dionne-Odom, deputy state epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Human Services.

There were 1,287 cases of Lyme disease in New Hampshire last year, she said, the second highest rate in the country.

"Our highest year was in 2008, when we had 1,598 cases, but we've fallen since then," she said. "Rockingham County has one of the highest rates of incidence of Lyme disease in the state."

In 2010, Rockingham County had 498 cases, down from 585 the year before. About 66 percent of ticks in the area are carrying the Lyme disease organism.

Eaton said there are two new diseases to worry about.

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