A tick carrying Lyme disease
A nymphal blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) that carries Lyme disease. (Photo: Courtesy of Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies)

Summer brings sunshine, shorts, and sandals to the northern U.S. It’s wonderful to get outside, but a hidden danger lurks: disease-carrying ticks.

In the ’80s, about 1,500 cases of Lyme disease were reported annually in the U.S. Currently, the average is 30,000, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there may actually be as many as 300,000 cases per year, mainly in the Northeast and upper Midwest.

Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies says climate change is partly responsible. Warmer temperatures allow ticks to spread farther north and to higher altitudes. Earlier springs have an impact too.

Ostfeld: “As the climate warms, the ticks become active earlier and earlier in the season.”

That can catch people by surprise, even in areas where ticks are common.

Early signs of Lyme disease may include flu-like symptoms and a rash. If left untreated, the symptoms become more serious, so early intervention is key.

Ostfeld: “If you see a tick embedded in you, you should get it out as quickly as you can. And if you feel any illness symptoms within the next couple of weeks, you should definitely see a doctor and report the tick bite.”

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...