BIDDEFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- While many of us have enjoyed the mild winter, there is a down side; research is showing a much larger population of ticks already emerging this season and more of them are carrying disease than ever before.
Experts say 1 in 3 ticks in the northeast can give you Lyme Disease.
Prevention is key. The CDC recommends using bug spray with deet, and using an agent called permethrin on your clothing if you do a lot of work outside. There are also plenty of natural repellents, but those often require a more vigorous application.
Meghan May is an associate professor of microbiology and infectious disease at UNE, and says the bad news about ticks only gets worse, "The ticks that are being tested have far higher rates not only of the agent of Lyme disease, but also the additional tick borne infections."
In years past, research showed only 1 in 4 ticks carried Lyme disease. This year, 1 in 3, meaning you have a 33% chance of being bit by a tick that's a carrier. On top of that, so many of the ticks tested this year are showing signs of other diseases, just as harmful, and difficult to diagnose.
Diagnosis now is based on immune system testing, that May says isn't completely reliable, so you have to be your own advocate. If you've been bitten and you feel sick within 7-30 days, see a doctor.
"That characteristic bull's-eye rash that everyone thinks about with Lyme disease, it's not present in about 40% of patients that have active Lyme disease," said May.
The good news is there are new advances to the way testing is done for Lyme disease, but that testing is still in the research phase.
For now, the best option, is to protect yourself this season and be hyper aware of any bites and any symptoms.
May says the best method of removing a tick is to grab it by the head with tweezers and pull straight up; damaging the body in any way only increases your chances of an infection.