A recently published study on tick surveillance and control shows how woefully underreported ticks are. According to a news release, Texas A&M entomologist Dr. Pete Teel, a co-author of the study, points out “while Texas has monitored and controlled ticks since 1893, a nationwide database is needed.”
The study’s authors surveyed 140 vector-borne disease professionals working at state, county and local agencies in fall 2018, according to the release. Reaching even that many respondents proved challenging, the authors said. No central database of tick-management programs or contacts was available.
Also according to the release:
The survey’s aim was to learn about programs’ objectives and capabilities for tick surveillance and control. Respondents were also asked whether they tested ticks for disease-causing germs, and about barriers to success.
Nationwide, less than half of public health and vector-control agencies engage in active tick surveillance, according to the survey. Only 12% of the surveyed agencies directly conduct or otherwise support tick-control efforts.
The study appeared on June 17 in the Journal of Medical Entomology. In addition to Teel, the authors were from Cornell University; University of Florida, Gainesville; University of California, Davis; University of Illinois; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. The authors are also affiliated with the CDC’s five Vector-Borne Disease Regional Centers of Excellence.
“Ticks are responsible for the majority of our vector-borne illnesses in the U.S., and our programming does not adequately meet the need in its current form, for both surveillance and control,” said Emily Mader, public health researcher, lead author on the study and program manager at the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases, led by Cornell University.
Study findings include:
- 65% said their programs engage in passive tick surveillance, such as accepting tick samples submitted by the public.
- 46% said their programs engage in routine active tick surveillance, such as focused collection of tick samples within their community.
- 26% said local tick-management programs test ticks for disease-causing germs.
- 7% said their programs work to detect such pathogens in animal hosts, such as mice, that can pass the pathogens to ticks in their area.
- 12% said their jurisdiction conducts or financially supports tick control. Those efforts primarily focused on reducing tick presence on animal hosts such as deer and rodents.
- 23% said their tick-management programs disseminate information to local health departments.
- 14% report data to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
WHAT PMPs CAN DO
These are sobering statistics. We urge readers to find out what tick surveillance programs are in place in their local markets, and how they can help. Our industry is on the front lines of public health protection, and fighting ticks is a major part of that. The news release states that “in December 2019, the Kay Hagan Tick Act authorized $150 million to strengthen the nation’s efforts on vector-borne disease. The act included funding the CDC’s Vector-Borne Disease Regional Centers of Excellence for an additional five years, through 2026. In the past two years, the CDC also issued guidance on the best practices for surveillance of several tick species.”
The legislation was named after Senator Kay Hagan, who died in October 2019 due to Powassan virus, a tick-borne infection.
The CDC has a ton of great information, both for training your employees and educating customers, at CDC.gov/ticks.
In the frenzy of the busy season, with calls for ants and stinging insects pouring in — not to mention all the new logistical adjustments to get used to, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic — ticks might not be tops on your to-do list. But the diseases they can transmit and the negative impact they can have on public health mean that they should probably move up a couple notches.