Wear long, light-colored clothing, and use repellent. Check yourself often. If you find a tick, remove it immediately. If symptoms emerge, see a doctor right away.

Right now, that’s the best defense against the rising threat of tick-borne disease. And as the population of the resilient arachnids continues to soar in Maine, it’s advice that everyone should live by.

If tick checks aren’t a part of every Mainer’s post-outdoors ritual, there’s good reason – it just hasn’t been a problem for that long.

In 2001, there were 108 diagnosed cases of Lyme disease, the most well-known tick-borne illness.

But warming temperatures have caused an explosion of these forest-loving pests in forest-covered Maine, and by 2011, there were 1,012 cases, and there’s been a record number of cases every year since, save one. Last year, there were 1,787 cases.

That gives Maine the highest infection rate of any state, with a rate 10 times higher than the national average.

More than 300,000 Americans a year now get Lyme disease, and that number, as well as Maine’s, is likely low due to underreporting.

Lyme disease can cause rashes, swelling, fatigue and neurological problems. Its effects can linger for years in the joints, heart and nervous system. It can be absolutely debilitating.

For a state that depends so much on outdoor recreation, Lyme disease cannot be ignored. And you don’t have to be a deep-woods hiker to be in danger – ticks are finding their way into neighborhoods, too.

Unfortunately, short of reversing climate change, there’s not a lot that can be done yet.

More is understood now about the conditions under which ticks flourish, but the patchwork of land uses and ownerships of Maine’s vast forestland makes it difficult to apply uniform solutions.

And ticks can handle a lot of adversity. The population was not hurt much during the extended hot and dry spell of summer 2016, nor was it destroyed by the remarkable stretch of cold weather last winter.

There was once a Lyme disease vaccine on the market, but it was taken off after some questionable attacks on its efficacy.

At least one more is in the works, but it is unclear when or if it will go on sale, and there are concerns that a vaccine could open the way for other tick-borne diseases not controlled by the vaccine.

Which brings up another reality – it’s not just Lyme disease. Cases of anaplasmosis, for one, have been on the rise, too, with 663 last year after only 52 just five years ago. Experts expect that trend to continue.

Research will continue, too, into how habitat affects tick population, and how minimizing or treating that habitat may make it safer for people. Some of that research is happening at the University of Maine.

Until then, the best strategy remains prevention.

So wear long, light-colored clothing, and use repellent. Check yourself often. If you find a tick, remove it immediately. If symptoms emerge, see a doctor right away.