ODU BIOLOGY

The department has teaching and research interests in many aspects of Biology from the cellular and molecular level to organismal to global ecological and conservation issues

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TICK Time in Hampton Roads

Recent increases in the number of cases of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis in Virginia demonstrate the need for public awareness of ticks and tick-borne diseases. Educational campaigns can provide the public with scientifically valid information to help prevent tick bites or prevent delays in diagnosis of tick-borne diseases. The key to awareness is to target the information during the times when that information is most crucial rather than during seasons of low tick encounter risk. This timing will help prevent complacency because ticks are not seen during various seasons of the year.

In the Hampton Roads area, the month of June is when anyone outdoors is most likely to encounter a tick based on a weekly survey of the area from 2009 to the present. Ticks are consistently collected at a number of surprising locations including sand dunes along the beach, on vegetation in a flooded marsh, along the edges of golf courses and even in the industrial areas near urban downtown areas. The most likely species to encounter is the Lone Star tick, which is does NOT spread Lyme disease but does spread ehrlichiosis. 95% of ticks collected were Lone Stars, and the “tick bombs” that people may encounter in late summer are larvae of this species. While it is certainly disconcerting to have 300-500 black specks suddenly crawling up one’s leg, this life stage is extremely unlikely to harbor any pathogens. The black-legged tick, also known as deer tick, is the vector of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The tiny nymphs of this species are usually to blame for biting humans and are active late May into June. The Gulf Coast tick is a recent invader from the south and has brought a new disease currently called Tidewater spotted fever. The adults of this species also peak in late May to early June.

Anyone outdoors can encounter a tick in nearly any season of the year, but the month of June is a crucial time to be completely aware. Regular tick checks including checking children can help reduce risk as can tucking pants into socks. Additionally, it is important to dispel the myths that exist regarding ticks. For example, ticks do NOT fall from trees. Ticks will not “back out” if you burn them, cover them in petroleum jelly, etc. The best removal is to use a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull directly up. Keep the tick in a plastic bag in your freezer for at least two weeks, and take the tick along to the doctor if any symptoms appear including fever, rash or fatigue.

Tick risk in Hampton Roads
Species
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Diseases
Lone Star
*
*
M
H
H
H
H
H
M
L
*
*
Ehrlichiosis
Dog ticks
*
*
L
M
H
H
L
*
*
*
*
*
#
Black-legged
*
*
L
L
M
H
M
L
L
L
L
*
Lyme disease
Gulf Coast
*
*
L
M
H
H
L
*
*
*
*
*
Tidewater spotted fever
Overall
*
*
L
M
H
H
H
M
M
L
*
*

* Ticks could be found but unlikely 
# Dog ticks can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but that has not be found in any samples to date.
 

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