The link between deforestation and tick-borne illnesses

Ticks have long been an issue in heavily wooded areas throughout the U.S.

Ticks have long been an issue in heavily wooded areas throughout the U.S. Those who reside in such regions must take extra care to guard themselves against deer, dog and other types of ticks that are capable of transmitting harmful diseases to pets and humans. Lyme disease is, of course, the best known tick-borne illness, as thousands of Americans are diagnosed with it each year. One researcher is trying to shed more light on Lyme disease, which still has no cure, by examining the relationship between deforestation and human disease outbreak.

Tick competition
Helen Esser, a Dutch researcher, is studying Panamanian forests for differences in tick populations, according to a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine. She and her co-researchers claim that there are two main groups of ticks: those that feed on a limited set of mammals and those that feed on a general group, including humans. The hypothesis they're working with assumes that mammal population declines in deforested areas, thus benefiting "generalist" ticks, which consequently turn to humans for feeding. Naturally, as soon as these ticks latch onto human hosts, the possibility of transmitting common diseases, such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, increases. Ticks that prey on one or two species gradually die out, as they can no longer compete with "generalist" ticks.

To verify whether this hypothesis holds in actual forests, Esser and her fellow researchers have canvassed several patches of forest and collected an estimated 20,000 ticks for inspection. They were able to do so by running a cotton cloth over the forest floor, and, in some cases, manually collecting ticks from nearby tree roots and plants. More than 40 species of tick reside in Panama, making it the ideal country to conduct research about the problematic parasites.

American forests
Although deforestation may not be as common in the U.S. as it is in other parts of the world, residences and towns that are near forests are at risk for a greater likelihood of tick infestation. Make sure your home and yard are protected from ticks by using effective products that will help keep you and your pets safe. Hartz® UltraGuard Plus® Flea & Tick Carpet Powder is sure to kill ticks and their larvae so you can stay worry-free in your own home.

This content is provided by the pet wellness experts at Hartz. We offer complete flea and tick protection for your pet, home and yard.