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Flu-Like Symptoms This Summer May Not Be Caused By COVID, But Ticks

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Should you develop flu-like symptoms in the coming months, your mind will likely worry about COVID.

Some experts on Long Island urge people to consider another cause too -- ticks.

As CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported Wednesday, they're lurking in tall grass, the woods, waiting for a host, and blood meal – ticks.

The most common until now, the deer tick (or black legged tick) is known for transmitting Lyme disease. But on Long Island, there is another to look out for -- the lone star tick. More aggressive than the deer tick -- its drawn to human vibrations and exhalations. It can carry Ehrlichiosis, which may cause fever and body aches.

"We have seen an increase in other tick-borne diseases," said Dr. Luis Marcos, MPH Associate Professor of Clinic Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine. "On Long Island, we half of the population is the lone star. The other half is deer tick."

Marcos studies ticks and their impacts on humans and shares that 95% of tick bites are benign. Still, if you develop symptoms in summer:

"Flu like symptoms for a week -- like COVID -- may not be COVID, may be a tick-borne disease," he said. "Early treatment, then no complications."

May through August mark peak tick season, but now you can pick up a tick any time.

"The period of time when they can be active is lengthening, and that is potentially attributable to warming trends, for sure," said Assistant Professor of Biology at Montclair State University Matthew Aardema.

Aardema said he's already noted a more active tick population than in years past.

"We probably are going to a relatively average, if not higher than average, incidence of Lyme disease," he said.

So, before heading out into the local wilderness, dress in long pants, and spray on the DEET. If you find a tick attached after soaking up a day of nature, nurse Rebecca Young with the Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center said do not irritate the tick.

"You think if you put something on the tick, like alcohol, or Vaseline or jet fuel, or whatever it is you want to kill the tick ... the tick will then let go," she said.

That's not true. In fact, it can make the situation worse.

"What happens, if you irritate the tick, it then injects the bacteria more into your body," she said.

Use tweezers and grab the tick close to the skin. Pull up. Then, tape that bloodsucker to an index card, date it and seal it in a plastic bag for identification.

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