MILLSBORO, Del. – Around Delaware, an almost invisible enemy lurks in the tall grass for an opportunity to strike.
That enemy, of course, is the tick, and its numbers are increasing throughout the First State.
“Our vice principal had to tell us to stay away from trees and things like that, bushes and stay more on our sunny side of the playground,” said Caden Timmons, describing how his school works to protect students from tick bites .
In recent years, the tick population has boomed in Delaware.
According to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), recent winters have not developed several extended periods of subfreezing temperatures that kill a large portion of the population during the winter.
Expanding the threat to humans also increases housing development, which brings people closer to tick habitats, which are often located where forests meet fields.
“We’re looking at wooded areas and grassy areas. Ticks like to shelter in a damp, damp, dark place, so those are typically the places where people get bitten,” said Jamie Ahlers, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Delaware Department of Public Health.
Neighbors in Sussex County have had to change the way they enjoy the outdoors because of the tick threat.
“I’ve actually been bitten myself and because there are so many, we’ve had Brasure’s come and spray our whole two and a half acres because we have animals,” Frankford neighbor Barbara Farley said.
Ticks can carry a number of different diseases, most often Lyme disease, but also a large number of less common but no less serious diseases.
Fortunately, while the tick population has grown in Delaware, reported cases of tick-borne disease have not.
“Hopefully it’s just that people understand the threat of ticks and are aware of the different techniques to prevent tick-borne disease and look for the different signs and symptoms,” Ahlers said.
To learn more about ticks in Delaware and how to keep your family and pets safe, visit DNREC’s Tick Program Page.