deer ticks

Patty Wight / Maine Public

This week Maine Public is focusing coverage on climate change, and threats it poses to Maine and to the planet. Among those threats is an increasing number of tick-borne diseases. Researchers say warmer winters and rising humidity have helped fuel the northward expansion of the ticks' range. Changes in climate are also making Maine more hospitable for new species of ticks and the diseases they carry.

s_p_e_x / Flickr/Creative Commons

A serious tick-borne disease — other than Lyme — has established itself in southern Maine. Researchers from the Maine Medical Research Institute in Scarborough have found the Powassan virus in deer ticks across southern areas of the state.

The research was conducted after a midcoast woman died from the disease in 2013. In November of that year, 73-year-old Marilyn Ruth Snow was bitten by a deer tick infected with the Powassan virus. She fell ill almost immediately and died about a month later.

Ragnhild Brosvik / Flickr/Creative Commons

By Michael Casey, The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — The drought conditions that have gripped much of the Northeastern U.S. this summer appear to have a silver lining — fewer ticks.

From Maine to Rhode Island, researchers say they expect tick numbers to be down from previous years especially for the blacklegged ticks, known as deer ticks, which transmit Lyme disease.

It’s too early to say, however, whether fewer ticks could mean a decline in Lyme disease cases.

PORTLAND, Maine - October is the peak season for adult deer ticks in Maine, and Lyme disease researchers at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute say, on average, at least half of the ticks may be infected with the Lyme bacterium and other disease pathogens.

Institute officials says this time of year dog ticks are in hibernation, so any tick found in southern Maine will almost certainly be a deer tick. But vector ecologist Chuck Lubelczyk says they may look different than what people are expecting.