Maine health officials are reporting a dramatic increase in two tick-borne illnesses – anaplasmosis and babesiosis – even as cases of the more commonly reported Lyme disease are down significantly.

Maine had recorded 556 cases of anaplasmosis and 124 cases of babesiosis through Tuesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported. The number of babesiosis cases already is a record, while anaplasmosis is tracking to finish 2019 with more cases than the previous high of 663 in 2017.

All of the diseases are spread by the deer tick.

“This has been one of the most active tick seasons we’ve ever seen in Maine – and it’s not over,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC. “The risk of tickborne illnesses remains high through November, so we urge everyone to protect themselves from tick bites.”

The tickborne diseases have similar symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue, aches, chills and swelling. If caught early, the diseases can be treated with antibiotics.

Anaplasmosis symptoms are generally more severe than Lyme. About 25 to 30 percent of all anaplasmosis cases result in hospitalization, compared to about 5 percent of Lyme cases. Scientists say an increasing number of deer ticks are infected with anaplasmosis.

Meanwhile, Lyme cases are significantly below recent years, with 684 cases reported through Oct. 1 and the total expected to exceed 1,000 by the end of the year. That’s tracking well below the 1,405 cases in 2018 and the record 1,855 cases in 2017. Since 2013, Maine has ended each year with more than 1,200 Lyme cases. About 15 years ago, Lyme cases were in the low hundreds.

Lyme researchers told the Press Herald this summer that ticks were abundant, and they also cautioned that Lyme statistics reported to the Maine CDC may be lagging, because of potential late reporting. So the Lyme numbers may rebound later this fall.

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said he didn’t have an immediate answer on Friday about whether there’s an extra lag in reporting Lyme numbers this year.

Researchers said conditions this year – with a wet, moist spring and humid summer – were near-perfect for ticks to thrive.

Deer ticks have increased their range in Maine over the past 20 to 30 years – a possible effect of climate change – and are now found in all of the state’s 16 counties.

Nationally, the U.S. CDC reported 42,743 confirmed cases of Lyme in 2017 – the most recent year for which national statistics are available – a 17 percent increase compared with 2016.

 

 

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