The lone star tick, found for decades mainly on Long Island's East End, has been moving west into more populated Suffolk County communities, according to a county health official.
"The evidence is anecdotal but we are seeing more complaints and more people coming in contact with the tick," said Dr. Scott Campbell, the chief of Suffolk's arthropod-borne disease lab. "We have reports all the way to western Suffolk."
Distinguished by a single white dot on their backs, lone star ticks have been heading west with Long Island's deer population. The deer are needed for the ticks to multiply, Campbell said.
The number of ticks found in some areas has been "very abundant," according to Javier Monzon of the Center for Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook University.
"This is a concern," said Monzon. "This species transmits the widest variety of diseases."
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, lone star ticks are not linked to Lyme disease, but patients bitten by lone star ticks will occasionally develop a circular rash similar to the rash of early Lyme disease.
The rash may sometimes be accompanied by fatigue, headache, fever and muscle pains.
"I was one of the first to be bitten by the lone star tick," said Jim Davies of Shirley. As with many other bite victims, Davies' symptoms were treated with antibiotics.
Although a bite can be lethal in extremely rare cases, lone star tick bites have not been linked to any long-term health issues, said Monzon.
The lone star tick is found most often in the southern U.S. It first appeared in Montauk in the 1970s, carried north, experts say, by birds.
The tick has been seen as far north as Maine, according to the CDC.
"They will seek you out," said Campbell. "People have said they had them on their porch."
Tick bites can be prevented by using bug repellent or wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants, Campbell said.