It all started with a tweet from the Centers for Disease Control posing a question: "Ticks can be the size of a poppy seed. Can you spot all 5 ticks in this photo?"
The attached images from last week showed a poppyseed muffin, that paragon of American breakfast pastries, with no fewer than five blood-sucking arachnids hidden on top. It's part of a CDC effort to warn Americans of tick-borne infections such as Lyme disease that the agency said are on the rise.
May begins the three-month span during which more people will get tick bites than any other in the United States, according to the CDC, and a 2016 study found ticks that carry Lyme disease present in nearly half of all U.S. counties. While some 30,000 cases of Lyme disease get reported annually, the CDC suggests the actual number of diagnosed cases may be ten times that — about 300,000.
If not treated, Lyme disease can produce severe arthritis or cause neurological or cardiac problems.
But the CDC's tick-laden muffin presented an entirely distinct problem for Twitter users, left to forever associate the delicious dots on poppyseed muffins with disease-ridden ticks. Responses ranged from "I will never be able to eat poppyseed again" to "Potlucks at the CDC must be a hoot" and "Can't get tick bites if you're biting them."
The replies, many revolted, continued — some 900 in all — and the CDC issued a tick-in-cheek apology on Monday: "Sorry we ticked some of you off! Don't let a tick bite ruin your summer."
But if generating buzz about tick bites was the CDC's goal all along, it's safe to say the agency does not regret the tweet.