Pike County’s Tick Borne Diseases Task Force has shared the results of a first-of-its-kind baseline study, conducted from 2018 to 2019 in partnership with the Dr. Jane Huffman Wildlife Genetics Institute at East Stroudsburg University. The public can visit pikepa.org/tick to view a video summarizing the study results.
The study was released as a commemoration of May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
“This is the largest countywide study ever conducted in Pennsylvania, and we are grateful for the partnerships that have made it possible,” said Rosemarie Schoepp, who chairs the task force. “Our continuing work will focus on bringing more awareness to this important public health issue and building on our research.”
The baseline study involved collecting and testing of 1,000 blacklegged ticks for seven disease-causing organisms, called pathogens, which the ticks may carry. The intent was to assess disease and infection rates for the public and medical professionals, with a view toward educational outreach on the risk and prevention of tick-borne diseases.
The project was funded by the Pike County Board of Commissioners, Lyme Disease Association, the Delaware Valley Educational Foundation; and Pike County Bar Association.
Pike County was divided into a grid of nine sections, with three to five tick collection sites selected per section. Milford Borough was tested as a 10th section with three collection sites. Only blacklegged ticks in the nymph (immature) or adult life stages were tested for diseases.
Dog ticks were found, along with a Lone Star tick and an Asian longhorn tick. Only blacklegged ticks were tested for disease. Other types were collected and recorded but not tested.
Because ticks are more active in the spring and fall, the study was conducted from spring 2018 through fall 2019. Dog ticks were found in only the spring, since they are not active in their life cycles in the fall.
● A total of 1,051 blacklegged ticks and 1,003 dog ticks were collected. One Lone Star tick and one Asian longhorn tick were also found. There was a fairly even split between female and male ticks.
● The blacklegged ticks were tested for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, mycoplasmosis, miyamotoi, and Powassan Virus Lineage II (also called deer tick virus).
● Lyme disease was the most pervasive finding, with 38.77% of the ticks testing positive for this pathogen.
● Bartonellosis was the second-highest finding, with 18.52% of the ticks testing positive for this pathogen.
● There were 123 ticks found to be carrying two or more diseases, known as a co-infection. The presence of multiple diseases can complicate a medical diagnosis and treatment and may increase the severity of symptoms. The highest co-infection observed was Lyme disease and anaplasmosis.
“To date this study is the largest and most comprehensive analysis completed on tickborne illnesses in one county of Pennsylvania,” said Nicole Chinnici, laboratory director of the Dr. Jane Huffman Wildlife Genetics Institute. “The results of this study will contribute to the overall goals of the task force by providing fine point data of ticks and tickborne diseases across the county to bring awareness to physicians and residents. With this data, we can provide better education of the risk for exposure to these tickborne diseases in Pike County.”
Informing the public
The task force is an initiative of the Pike County Commissioners focused on decreasing the number of tick-borne illnesses by raising community awareness through education, support, and advocacy. In 2019, its efforts were recognized with an Environmental Partnership Award from the Northeast Environmental Partners
The task force offers educational brochures to help people prevent tick-borne diseases and safely enjoy the great outdoors. The Tick 101 brochure covers identification, removal, symptoms, testing facilities, and prevention techniques. Tick 201 provides measures to help protect your property, and includes a refresher on tick identification and testing.
It also offers educational materials for children including a short story, lessons, and activity sheets.
The group meets on the fourth Thursday of each month at 10 a.m., currently via Zoom. New members are welcome.
For more information on the study’s results, visit the task force website at pikepa.org/tick or contact Brian Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 570-296-3500.
“This is the largest county-wide study ever conducted in Pennsylvania, and we are grateful for the partnerships that have made it possibl. Our continuing work will focus on bringing more awareness to this important public health issue and building on our research.” Rosemarie Schoepp