Dill talks with Press Herald about increase in tick-borne illnesses

Griffin Dill talked with the Portland Press Herald about the increase of tick-borne illnesses in Maine last year. Anaplasmosis diagnoses reached a record high in 2019, with at least 685 confirmed cases of the tick-borne illness, while the number of Lyme disease cases also were up. “Ticks were abundant and highly active in 2019,” said Dill, an integrated pest management specialist with University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Lyme and anaplasmosis are both transmitted by the deer tick and exhibit the same symptoms — fever, joint pain, swelling, fatigue, headaches and neurological problems. Anaplasmosis, though, is typically more severe. About 25% of anaplasmosis patients are hospitalized, compared to about 5% of Lyme patients. In 2019, there were 1,461 cases of Lyme disease, according to preliminary data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a 7% increase over the 1,370 cases in 2018. Anaplasmosis rose 44% from the 476 cases in 2018. The CDC also reported 138 cases in 2019 of babesiosis, another tick-borne illness. Dill said there are unknowns about why anaplasmosis cases surged. Of the ticks submitted in 2019 to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab, 8% tested positive for anaplasmosis and 38% tested positive for Lyme, Dill said. “It might be that there’s hot spots in certain geographical areas for ticks infected with anaplasmosis, and that those ticks may be more likely to be in areas with more human activity.” Doctors also may be more likely to order tests for anaplasmosis now compared to five years ago, said Dill, so cases not diagnosed years ago are more likely to be reported now.