The ticks were waiting for winter to end, too.

While Lyme disease cases are down so far this year compared to this time in 2014, the deer ticks that carry the disease did not die off and were merely dormant until the snow melted. Maine probably still will experience a tick-filled summer because this winter’s deep snow merely insulated the ticks from the cold, experts said.

“Those ticks were quite fat and happy under the snow, but they were not going to start coming out until the snow was gone,” said Jim Dill, pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “It’s going to pick up pretty quickly. The population looks pretty strong right now.”

Through May 26, there were 89 reported cases of Lyme disease in the state, compared to 166 cases through May 2014, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine has experienced large increases in Lyme disease in recent years with 1,388 cases in 2014.

Susan Elias, a researcher with Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough, said ticks could be more active this spring and summer because the snow was on the ground into April in many parts of the state.

“Maybe they started later, but we could see a higher peak of tick activity this summer because they’re coming out in a shorter period of time,” Elias said.


Ticks are not killed easily by cold weather. It would take weeks of temperatures around zero degrees without much insulating snow cover to kill a significant number.

Elias said the institute is collecting ticks for research, and while information is only anecdotal at this point, the population appears to be about average compared to recent years. But the deer tick has expanded its range and become more common in Maine over the past 20 years, experts say.

Lyme disease cases have jumped from fewer than 300 per year a decade ago to more than 1,000 every year since 2011, with each year setting a new record.

Meanwhile, some Lyme disease patients are lobbying in support of a bill that would make it easier to obtain controversial treatments for persistent Lyme disease cases, in which symptoms linger for years after a tick bite. The bill would protect doctors from having their licenses sanctioned for prescribing long-term antibiotics to Lyme sufferers. Patients now often travel to New Hampshire or other Northeastern states for the treatments. Scientists disagree about whether long-term antibiotics are effective and whether they harm patients.

Victoria Delfino, of Windham, said in 2008 she had to seek treatment in New York for chronic Lyme disease after not being able to obtain long-term antibiotics in Maine. She said her health has improved greatly since then.

The bill was recommended out of the labor and commerce committee by a 7-6 vote with opponents arguing that the state should not get involved.

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