Tick-Borne Diseases

Help us collect important data about Tick-borne diseases in the Adirondacks.


Blacklegged tick populations in the North Country

During the fall of 2017, surveillance for blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) was conducted at 39 sites in six North Country counties (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer and St. Lawrence). Blacklegged tick population density was highest at the lowest elevations, but ticks were also found at higher elevations sites (exceeding 1600 feet). Tick densities are still patchy, but there is risk of encounter throughout the North County.

Disease causing agents in these blacklegged ticks

In the fall of 2017, a total of 498 ticks were collected from 16 of the 39 sites surveyed, and were tested for presence of pathogens. Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, was found in blacklegged tick populations throughout the North Country. The average infection rate for Borrelia burgdorferi was 47.5%. Infection rates among the sites varied from 0-85%. Risk of Lyme disease exposure is likely present, even in very low density tick areas. Babesia microti, the malaria-like parasite which causes babesiosis in humans, was found at two sites in the North Country in 2016, both near the Clinton/Essex county border. In 2017, a significant geographic range spread was observed, with B. microti detected at five sites located in Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties.

*The New York State Dept. of Health conducted pathogen testing as part of a statewide tick-borne pathogen surveillance.


Incidence of Lyme Disease in the North Country

Whereas, incidence of Lyme disease throughout New York State has remained fairly steady over the past two decades, incidences have risen sharply in the North Country. From 2010-2016, the incidence of Lyme disease in humans increased in all North Country counties. (see below)

A small number of cases of human babesiosis have been reported in Essex and Clinton Counties since 2015. Dogs are good sentinels for Lyme disease risk in humans. The percent of dogs in each county testing positive for Lyme disease exposure as of March 2018 are shown below (capcvet.org).

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Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls. Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop onto passing people or animals. They get on humans and animals only by direct contact. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected area. In tick-infested areas, the best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work, or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself and your pets...

  • -Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily. 

  • -Regularly check for ticks on yourself when outside. 

  • -Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants. 

  • -Consult your veterinarian about treating your dog or cat with tick-killing pesticides (acaricides), and using tick collars. 

  • -There is currently a Lyme disease vaccine available for dogs. However, there are varying opinions on its effectiveness. Consult your veterinarian about the vaccine. From: www.health.ny.gov/publications/2825/
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The mission of the Adirondack Watershed Institute of Paul Smith's College is to create scientifically-sound knowledge about terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and human relationships with the environment, enhance the educational opportunities available for undergraduate students and to engage the Adirondack Community in ways that facilitate the stewardship of our natural resources.

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