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7 new tick viruses to worry about with 'big epidemic' of bugs in much of the country

English: A researcher collecting ticks in the ...English: A researcher collecting ticks in the field using the tick dragging method. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent afternoon walk turned into a tick attack for a Massachusetts man.

As community forester Derek Lirange was hiking around the Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Worcester on May 16, he spotted a few ticks on his pants. Within a few more minutes, there were five or six more ticks, followed by more and more. By the end of the hike, he counted 26 ticks.

I hadn't taken every precaution, such as spraying with insect repellent, but I was wearing long pants and socks," the 26-year-old told TODAY. "It was a creepy, ongoing discovery."

Luckily, none had embedded. But the spike of the tick population in the gardens led to the cancellation of a spring walk around the reservoir.

Welcome to the new tick season. No one knows exactly how many ticks are out there, but the skyrocketing cases of tick-borne diseases recently reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides indirect evidence that the little bloodsuckers are becoming more numerous, said Alfaro Toledo, an assistant professor in the department of entomology at Rutgers University. 

"It's a big epidemic affecting the entire East Coast," said Toledo. "Witness the spread of the deer tick to the north and west."

And it's not just deer ticks we now have to worry about. The numbers of Lone Star ticks, which can trigger an allergy to red meat, are also on the rise and their habitat continues to expand, Toledo says.

In its recent report, the CDC said there have been seven new tick-borne viruses discovered to infect people since 2004.      READ MORE

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