Pennsylvania launches 5-year tick watch to help prevent Lyme disease

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The number of Lyme disease cases in Pennsylvania continues to rise. So this year, the state is collecting ticks in every county in an effort to prevent the illness from spreading in the future.

The Department of Environmental Protection has launched a five-year tick surveillance.

Something all Pennsylvanians may see in parks around their towns is white pieces of felt. The state is using the material to collect and count ticks.

“Specifically, we are looking at the DNA,” said Beth Rementer, a DEP spokeswoman. “Ticks often carry certain bacteria that cause illnesses.”

The goal is to learn more about tick habitats, life stages, activity levels, and bacteria that cause human diseases. It’s part of a broader effort to reduce the cases of Lyme disease. 

The Department of Health got $2.5 million to address what it’s considering a public health issue. 

“Pennsylvania knows that we have some of the highest cases in the country,” Health Department press secretary Nate Wardle said. “In 2017, which is the most recent data we have available, there were nearly 12,000 cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania.”

Surveillance during the spring and summer is focusing on three tick species: the black-legged tick, the adult American dog tick, and the adult lone star tick.

Health officials say this research will also help them predict how upcoming tick seasons will look. 

“There’s some discussion as to when it’s colder during the winter, if we have a really cold winter, which we didn’t see winter, that it can help kill off the ticks. We’re expecting to see ticks in every county of the state,” said Wardle.

So far, the state has collected more than 3,600 ticks to be tested.

The Department of Health reminds Pennsylvanians to wear a DEET-based bug spray to prevent ticks. Check your family and pets for ticks when you go inside.

If you think you’ve been bitten by a tick and have symptoms of Lyme disease, see a doctor right away.

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