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Tracking ticks: a lack of stats

2001 — 17,029 cases


September 11, 2012

PIKE AND WAYNE COUNTIES, PA — Despite increasing cases of confirmed Lyme disease that place Pennsylvania at the top of the heap in terms of health impacts from ticks, very little tracking of tick populations in the state is occurring.
Because ticks are vectors for diseases such as Lyme, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, growing tick populations could have serious public health implications.

Much like the pests themselves, which are ever moving upward as they climb a host to reach the rich blood supply in the head, local tick populations appear to be rising to unprecedented levels in Pike and possibly Wayne counties, as indicated by the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease.

Locally, cases of Lyme disease are being tracked by Wayne Memorial Hospital (WMH) in Honesdale. In 2011, approximately 180 samples were confirmed positive. Between January and July 2012, the Wayne Memorial Laboratory has sent 121 samples that screened positive for Lyme disease to the state for confirmation. Seventy-five percent, or about 91 have come back confirmed positive. (Additional information is available through Wayne Memorial Community Health at 570/253-8422).

Recently, a Lone Star tick, which is present in the southern part of the state but rarely seen in the Northeast, was discovered following a hike at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) Shohola Recreation Area in Shohola, PA.
Lone Star ticks are not known to transmit Lyme disease, but have been linked to an illness known as southern tick associated rash illness, or STARI, in the southern US, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH).

It can also transmit the bacterial infection Ehrlichiosis.
As reported on “Good Morning America” earlier this year, University of Virginia researchers are exploring a possible connection between the bite from a lone star tick and the development of an allergic reaction to meat. The three- to six-hour delayed reaction can range from hives to anaphylactic shock, according to Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who has seen approximately 400 cases of the unusual allergy. The link, however, is hard to prove and the mechanism is still unknown.

Pennsylvania is already one of the leading states for the incidence of Lyme disease, which is transmitted by black-legged ticks, commonly referred to as deer ticks.