Pennsylvania is working to get a handle on ticks and tickborne illnesses like Lyme disease, that pose a threat to public health to the Lehigh Valley and beyond.
Since July 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has coordinated with county governments on a five-year effort to assess the risk of tickborne illnesses across the state. The environmental surveillance program stems from a recommendation from the PA Lyme Disease Task Force.
“Lyme disease is a major public health concern in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said in a statement. “Many people believe that Lyme disease, and the ticks that carry the disease, can only be found in wooded areas. These surveillance efforts will help us to share with all Pennsylvanians the importance of taking steps to protect yourself,” she added.
This survey is occurring in every county in Pennsylvania as a way to analyze ticks and their habitats, life states and peak activity levels. Lehigh and Northampton counties are among 38 counties that are also part of specific surveys of nymphal blacklegged ticks.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is funding the study.
The ticks will be collected using white felt drags, which sample low-lying ground cover and understory vegetation for ticks. One goal is to better alert the public about how to avoid tick-infested areas and their potentially debilitating diseases.
This spring and summer, the survey will be taken from May through August, once per week at two different sampling locations, which can be parks, playgrounds, recreational fields or other domestic habitat (with landowner permission), according to the DEP.
Ticks collected are immediately placed in a 70-80 percent alcohol solution, labeled and sent to the DEP.
“Lyme disease affects thousands of Pennsylvanians every year, but ticks are also known to carry other pathogens that could infect humans,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement. “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.”
Here is more from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on avoiding ticks and tickborne illness like Lyme disease: