Lyme Disease Prevention and Surveillance are Keys to Lower Risk

Tick diseases may not be on your top list of things to worry about, but they should be! One little tick bite may affect humans long-term. These diseases include: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan encephalitis and others.

Prevention and surveillance of tick bites and disease is vital to protect all populations. This includes spraying backyards to CDC surveillance tools.

Three cases studies were conducted in three different states; California, Maine and New York. These case studies crack down on tick populations and how to eliminate the problem of disease. 

Shoutout to the researchers, CDC and ASTHO Report for continuing research for pubic health! 

Increasing threats of tick disease

Creepy, crawly and sneaky all define characteristics of ticks. You may know this feeling if you’ve ever taken a walk through tall grass or in the woods, then all of a sudden you feel something crawling on you. Or you may not notice until later when the tick has already bitten you. That one single bite could cause a lifetime of health issues!

Therefore, you should be aware of the emerging threats of tick disease. As stated before, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever are very common tick diseases that affect the human neurological system. 

In New York, researchers have been tracking down the Asian longhorned tick to prepare utilizing surveillance tools and public outreach. This species appeared in the United States in 2017, origin from Asia, and causes disease in humans and animals. As stated in the report, the diseases transmitted include: Babesia, Rickettsia, Borrelia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Heartland virus and Powassan virus. Not a tick to be taken lightly. 

The New York State Department of Health has created a published guide

Now, what did they do to learn about this invasive species? Tick surveillance programs. Every county in New York has active surveillance (about 150 different locations), where researchers sample each site for ticks. However, with the new species emergence, researchers sampled sites two times weekly in the summer and fall. About 126,000 Asian longhorned ticks were collected.

The good news is, there were no harmful pathogens found in the tick samples in 2018. However, surveillance programs are highly important to track where the ticks are, lifecycles, identification and prevention.

Here is a great resource for tick identification: Tick Encounter Resource Center 

Also check out our previous blog about The Tick App!

Lyme disease map
CDC 2018 Reported Cases of Lyme Disease https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/datasurveillance/maps-recent.html

Tracking down ticks

Ticks. In Maine? Sure there are! In the second case study, the state of Maine utilized public health tracking and surveillance.

According to the case study, Maine is close to the highest numbers of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis cases in the U.S. With that said, the Maine CDC contacts health care providers to obtain data, including symptoms, to track down where these tick bites are happening. What is the most likely culprit? Blacklegged ticks. 

Another interesting way they track ticks is utilizing technologies to determine the likelihood of when tick populations increase, which is at Maine’s most hot and humid time of the year (summer and fall). With this tracking data, Maine CDC has maps which include tracking of tick-borne diseases and geographic areas of ticks. 

Public Outreach

States all over the U.S. are implementing public outreach for vector-borne diseases. In particular, Maine is utilizing their data portal for public education, which has become the most viewed domain on the tracking website. However, only seven states have implemented this CDC National Tracking Network (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin.

Likewise, California is stepping up to providing outreach and education programs to the public with their own California Department of Public Health Vector-Borne Disease Section (VBDS).

Their philosophy is to:

1. Prevent tick bites.

2. Check for tick bites.

3. Remove attached ticks.

Not only that, but they are utilizing their own mapping data, provide information for the public and healthcare providers, integrate education into schools and utilize social media outlets.  

Natural mosquito control
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Conclusion

In conclusion, ticks should be on everyone’s high alert list. You don’t know they’ve bitten you until you’re itching. Which is why a natural tick preventative is needed to eliminate the threat of tick-borne diseases. 

Additionally, utilizing the resources from your local CDC will help you figure out the precautions you should make, whether treating your backyard to using tick repellants on your clothing when outside.

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