March 17, 2019
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has officially launched a tick surveillance program to assess the illnesses that come from the insects.
The five-year program is analyzing tickborne illnesses like Lyme disease, Powassan disease, and Ehrlichiosis by collecting samples in every county. It first began in certain counties in July 2018 to track tick habits, life stages and activity, the department announced on Thursday.
Collections being made in spring and summer focus on collecting the black-legged tick — which most often infects humans with Lyme disease — the American dog tick, and the lone star tick.
Thirty-eight counties are also conducting independent surveys of the nymphal black-legged ticks. Since July 1, the program has collected 3,663 adult black-legged ticks for testing, according to the DEP.
“Lyme disease affects thousands of Pennsylvanians every year, but ticks are also known to carry other pathogens that could infect humans. This survey will provide important data that will help us better understand these arachnids in our environment and inform Pennsylvanians on how, when and where to avoid getting bitten by a disease-carrying tick,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors and take the proper precautions to avoid contact with ticks, and we are proud to support the Lyme Disease Task Force’s efforts to protect Pennsylvanians.”
To collect samples, the department will drag a piece of white felt through low-lying vegetation.
Collections in fall and winter mostly focused on analyzing adult black-legged ticks for emerging and changing diseases in public places like parks, playgrounds and fields.
According to the Morning Call, this is the first time Pennsylvania has done a statewide study since 2015.