A dry summer and global pandemic may be responsible for a 50 percent drop in confirmed Lyme disease cases in Maine last year. But that doesn’t mean the disease-carrying ticks are crawling over the state in fewer numbers.
Lyme disease cases fell from 2019’s record-high 2,167 to only 1,115 last year, according to the Portland Press Herald. It’s not just Lyme that saw fewer confirmed infections, but other tick-borne diseases — anaplasmosis down 43 percent and babesiosis down 52 percent — fell by similar margins.
But that decline isn’t likely the result of a devastated population of disease-carrying ticks. Instead, it’s likely that last summer’s dry weather made ticks less active and the pandemic kept more people from seeking medical care or testing for tick diseases.
“There may have been a lot of untreated Lyme disease last year,” Griffin Dill, a tick specialist with the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension, told the newspaper.
Megan Porter, a public health educator, told the Press Herald that people might also have misinterpreted Lyme symptoms, such as fever, headaches and fatigue as those of COVID-19 and never got tested for the tick-borne illness.
That decline isn’t likely from Mainers staying inside more in 2020, which saw more people venturing into the outdoors looking for safe activities after a long spring cooped up inside because of virus restrictions.
Dill warned that tick activity looks normal so far this year. The disease-carrying arachnids have begun to wake from their winter slumber and go forth looking for hosts after a spate on warm spring days.