HODELETE HFA Credit: Handout | TNS

PORTLAND, Maine — Health news website WebMD has announced the release of its real-time, interactive map showing flea and tick activity across the country, and Maine has the early-season distinction of having the most active pests of any state in America.

The map uses what a WebMD announcement called “proprietary data compiled from an aggregation of relevant topics and declared information, including WebMD Symptom Checker visits related to insect bites” to determine the severity of flea and tick activity across all 50 states.

“With millions of consumers coming to WebMD each month to find information on maintaining their family and pets’ health, WebMD recognizes that pets are an important part of people’s lives and is pleased to offer the first real-time mechanism to track flea and tick prevalence,” said Dr. Michael Smith, WebMD chief medical editor, in a statement. “Consumers can now use WebMD’s ‘Flea and Tick Map‘ to access the most useful information to protect their pets from flea- and tick-related illnesses.”

The most recent data collected by the website finds Maine at No. 1 in flea and tick activity, followed by fellow New England states Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut, in that order. The only New England state not in the top 10 is Rhode Island — Massachusetts comes in at No. 7 — although the Ocean State tops WebMD’s list of “trending” states, so it’s catching up to its northeastern neighbors quickly.

Veterinarian Mark Hanks of the Orrington-based Kindred Spirits Veterinary Clinic told the Bangor Daily News in a previous interview that between 3,000 and 5,000 fleas must typically be in the area before a pet owner recognizes their presence, and for every one flea plucked off a cat or dog, there are usually about 300 others nearby in one stage of life or another.

A female flea lays 36 eggs every day, Hanks said.

While fleas can cause pets to be miserably itchy, eight-legged deer ticks are perhaps the more dangerous of the two vermin. The ticks are known to sometimes carry Lyme disease, the bacterial infection anaplasmosis, the parasitic infection babesiosis and the Powassan virus, all of which can be serious — and even fatal — under certain circumstances.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using insect repellent with DEET on your skin and apply permethrin, a common insecticide, to your clothes to help avoid tick bites, as well as thorough checks of skin and clothing after coming inside.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.