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Climate change is the culprit behind rising tick-borne diseases, Connecticut researcher says

James Gathany
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP

Climate change is the number one reason for skyrocketing diseases from ticks and mosquitos.

The takeaway from a one-day symposium held on Tuesday signaled the need for climate resiliency to attending state agencies, health departments and other local pest control agencies in Connecticut.

“We are seeing shorter and shorter winter times with milder temperatures, not bitterly cold. Spring and summer are getting long,” said Goudarz Molaei, who heads the Center for Vector Biology and Zoonotic Diseases for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “As a result, we are seeing that, unlike in the past, we are having tick season all year round. This is, to a certain extent, valid for mosquitos as well.”

The warmer weather is also bringing new species of ticks and mosquitoes to the region carrying diseases other than Lyme or West Nile Virus.

“The number of people who have sought treatment for Lyme disease — that’s the poster child of vector borne diseases — has been around 476,000 annually, “ Molaei said, “and you can imagine the scope of the problem, this is just one of the tick-borne diseases.”

Molaei said vector-borne diseases account for 17% of all infectious diseases, causing more than 700,000 deaths each year worldwide.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.