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  • June 14, 2018

    Tick Researchers Visit Eau Claire and Promote Tick App

    App gives Eau Claire residents information about tick safety, prevention

    Researchers of app say city has lots of green space for ticks to fill

    Erica Jones

    June 10, 2018

    Smartphones can be used for almost anything, and now they can even help Eau Claire residents identify ticks.

    The Tick App, which launched Memorial Day weekend, is part of a study being done by researchers at the Upper Midwestern Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease. The research means to identify answers to a few different questions: When do people get ticks? What are people doing when they get ticks? Are people at risk in their own yards, or do they have to be in a park/woods setting?

    “Human nature is really important in tick encounters,” said Bieneke Bron, a postdoctoral researcher on the project.

    Thus far, major tick studies have only considered public parks because of their long grasses and woody sections, but this study aims to address the possibility that ticks are crawling around on lawns and in shrubbery in residential neighborhoods as well.

    For the first part of the project, Bron and two fellow researchers dragged for ticks in the backyards near three area parks: Centennial Park in Altoona, and Eau Claire’s Putnam Park and Lowe’s Creek County Park.

    Bron said she decided to study the backyards in the Eau Claire area because this city was among the top ten cities in Wisconsin population-wise.  She also noted the high rates of Lyme disease found in ticks here. When she looked at the city on a map, she could see it was filled with green space.

    “If I was a deer tick, I could almost travel through the whole city if I wanted to without high exposure to cars,” Bron said.

    The goals of The Tick App, Bron said, are to create a better messaging platform to inform people of the risks of tick bites and create better prevention strategies for individuals and communities.

    When users download it, they are asked to make a profile and consent to participate in the study. After they do so, the next step is completing a questionnaire to find out a little more about individual participants. Questions range from a person’s gender to what actions they currently take to prevent ticks to the kinds of outdoor activities in which they partake. 

    All the answers are utilized by the researchers to find correlations between what people do and when they encounter ticks. After finishing the enrollment, participants are requested to fill out a daily tick diary, reporting what they did that day and if they, a family member or pet had a tick on them. They can even take a photograph of the tick and send it to researchers.

    “There are also educational materials on what to do if you have a tick and how to remove it,” Bron said. “The app is an educational and prevention tool as well as a research tool.”

    One of the educational materials in the app is a tick identification guide, including images of full-grown ticks and nymphs, as well as links to outside resources.

    Bron stressed that nymph ticks are only the size of a poppy seed but can still inflict great damage. Because they’re so small, people tend to miss them on their bodies during tick searches. The app will help identify these miniscule creatures.

    Susan Paskewitz, director of the CEVBD, said the goal of this project is to increase education and health. 

    “The core goal is to improve the status of health in the Midwest as it relates to vector-borne disease,” Paskewitz said.

    This means specifically targeting mosquitos and ticks. Ticks, Paskewitz said, have been creating an increasing problem in the United States, especially in the Midwest, where ticks are more prevalent.

    “This is a big problem, and a growing problem,” Paskewitz said of diseases caused by ticks. “Case numbers have continued to climb year after year after year.”

    Read the full article here.


  • June 5, 2018

    Tick App Featured in Local Media


    Chris Lueneburg, WISC-TV- News 3 Madison

    MADISON, Wis. - Researchers in the UW Department of Entomology have developed an application to help users report and identify tick bites. 

    The Tick App asks users to log their contact with ticks every day for a two week-period. Researchers hope that this information will help them learn more about where and when people encounter ticks, with the ultimate goal of discovering how to limit people's exposure to tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease.  

    In addition, the app informs users about tick safety and helps identify types of ticks and the risks that are associated with them, an increasingly important service as tick season comes into full swing, according to UW Entomology Department chair Susan Paskewitz. 

    "Right now, in June is when we tend to see the highest population of the immature stages," said Paskewitz. "These nymph ticks that are so tiny and so difficult to find when they get on your person, and yet they can do most of the disease transmission."

    Over 100 people are already active on the app, which can be downloaded on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

    Full article here.


  • June 4, 2018

    The good news (and bad) about this summer's mosquito season

    Chacour Koop (Daily Herald)


    You probably don't need anyone to tell you how bad the mosquitoes have been lately in the suburbs.

    The wettest May in Chicago's history and a stretch of record-tying high temperatures have combined to cook up the perfect conditions for millions of mosquito eggs to develop, experts say. Typically, mosquito season doesn't kick off until mid-June.

    "When we're out and about, we find that people are surprised," said George Balis, an entomologist at Clarke Environmental, which handles mosquito abatement for parts of Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Cook counties.

    What can we expect for this summer? And will the risk for West Nile virus be higher than average?

    Here's the bad news and good news.

    Bad news: Obviously, the mosquitoes have gotten off to a very strong start, in part because 8.2 inches of rainfall was recorded at O'Hare International Airport in May, breaking a record of 7.5 inches in 1945. Then there was the three-day stretch of 90-degree temperatures -- the earliest in the year since 1977 -- which sped up mosquitoes' metamorphosis.

    Good news: A strong start for mosquitoes doesn't mean they'll hang on for the whole summer, Balis said.

    "It's hard to really designate an entire year by the beginning of the season," he said.

    Just as the weather can quickly change, so too can the conditions for mosquitoes to multiply. But the perfect conditions are different for relatively harmless but pesky mosquitoes and those that actually carry infections such as West Nile virus.

    Bad news: The first mosquitoes in Illinois found to be carrying the West Nile virus were found in the Northern suburbs of Glenview and Morton Grove last week, though no human cases have been reported, Illinois Department of Public Health officials said. West Nile virus has been reported in the state every year since 2001.

    Good news: For the past several years, scientists at the University of Illinois have been forecasting the weekly risk of West Nile virus by analyzing weather patterns favorable to culex pipiens -- the type of mosquito that carries West Nile virus. The species prefers drier and warmer weather.

    Their most sophisticated modeling system is based in DuPage County, where a high number of mosquito traps provide strong data.

    With the average rainfall last fall and bitter low temperatures in January, this summer so far is not shaping up to be an especially bad year for West Nile virus, said Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz, the director of the university's geographic information science and spatial epidemiology lab.

    Bad news: We're not out of the woods. Ruiz said the next several weeks will provide insight. If the infection rate starts mirroring 2012, the state's worst year for West Nile virus, there could be trouble.

    Balis said that whether or not the risk is high, it's always important to wear insect repellent and remove standing water.

    "When you have exposure to mosquitoes, there are things you can do regardless of whether they are West Nile mosquitoes or quality-of-life mosquitoes," he said.

    See original article here.


  • June 1, 2018

    Expert Susan Paskewitz Comments on High Mosquito Activity in Wisconsin


    MADISON, Wis. - While summer weather has us itching to get outside, mosquitoes just have us itching.

    Susan Paskewitz, a professor in the entomology department at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the area’s mosquito hatch is off to an early start thanks to a very rainy May.

    "This has been an unusually high-intensity year,” she said. “It means there will be a lot of nuisance mosquito activity out there. A lot of people will be bitten in their own yards."

    Fighting the pests can be a losing battle, but it’s one Mike Freeman is taking on with his business, Mosquito Authority, which offers to mosquito-proof backyards.

    "What we do is treat vegetation all along the property line. We stay away from flowers, beneficial insects,” he said.

    The idea is to chemically treat plants so mosquitos will land on them and die before landing on people.

    "We're treating vegetation so you're not rubbing chemicals on your body,” he said. “It's just an alternative way of giving yourself protection."

    He said that, this year, business has been swarming.

    "The phone's been ringing nonstop,” he said.

    Paskewitz said chemically treating your backyard can be helpful, and is safe for children and pets, but it's not foolproof, and won't last the whole summer.

    "But most Wisconsinites are hearty folks and know how to deal with mosquitos,” she said.

    For Freeman, dealing with mosquitos means taking a stand.

    “What we’re able to do is give people their backyards back,” he said.

    Paskewitz said last year was a record-setting year for mosquito activity, and this year has that potential, as well.

    “We could really be looking at some epic populations this year, but it all depends on the rain.”

    See the original article here.


  • May 31, 2018

    Tick App Recently Promoted at Community Discussion


    Researchers from Columbia University recently led a public discussion regarding ticks and potential ways to reduce or eliminate their numbers on Block Island, Rhode Island. Several community members came out to share their perspectives and discuss the issue with researchers Maria Diuk-Wasser and Pilar Fernandez, who are both from Columbia University, and Mary Hayden, who is a Behavioral Scientist from the University of Colorado.

    The Tick App, a smartphone app that was developed jointly by researchers from the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector Borne Disease and the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease, was promoted during this event and highlighted as one way that community members can help researchers better understand what activities and locations lead to the highest risk of tick exposure.

    The Eco-epidemiology lab at Columbia University, headed by Maria Diuk-Wasser, has been working on Block Island since 2010, investigating the links between the island’s environment, animal host populations, and human cases of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and human babesiosis.

    In addition to submitting data regarding tick exposures, Tick App users can learn more about the biology and ecology of ticks, how to identify them and how to protect yourself from ticks. The app is available to download from the App Store or Google Play.

    Learn more about the community discussion here. More info on the Tick App can be found here


  • May 29, 2018

    MSU Tick Team Interviewed by Local News

    Dr. Jean Tsao and graduate student Megan Porter were interviewed last week by their local news station, WLNS-TV, Lansing, to talk about ticks in Michigan and surveillance plans they have for this summer.

    Full article and interview video can be found here.


    EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) - It's that time of year again.

    Time to keep a good eye out for ticks, especially if you've been outside this holiday weekend.

    They creep, they crawl, and they're more dangerous than you might think.

    According to the experts ticks are out earlier than normal this year due to warmer weather, which means there's an increased chance for tick-born illnesses including Lyme Disease.

    "The longer the disease goes undetected, the greater the symptoms can be," says MSU Assistant Professor of Fisheries & Wildlife and of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Jean Tsao.

    Tsao says symptoms are similar to the common cold.

    Fever, chills, and a rash at the site of the bite.

    If not caught, could lead to inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

    In Michigan, Tsao and her students work to track the tiny ticks down.

    They hope to get a better grasp of just how serious the Lyme Disease problem is in our state.

    "We have the opportunity to improve this map. This is the largest effort of surveillance for the black legged tick that has been conducted in Michigan," says Tsao.

    Last week students like Megan Porter packed up maps and camping gear and divided into teams where she and others set off in search of the little parasites.

    "There are 83 counties in Michigan and our goal is to survey for black legged ticks and other species of ticks in every single county," says MSU Graduate Student, Megan Porter.

    To do that, they'll need what's called a drag cloth.

    "It is a proxy for a host coming by including humans. So any ticks that are ready to get on a host will attach to the drag cloth so the students will be dragging this drag cloth through the vegetation and every so often stopping to check it for the black legged tick," says Tsao.

    Porter says for the most part, all of the information gathered will be the first of it's kind in Michigan.

    A feat students are excited to conquer.

    "I feel like in some ways we're, we're taking part in history or we're helping to make history as we find new ticks in new areas," says Porter.


  • May 11, 2018

    Lyric Bartholomay Featured on WPR Central Time

    Dr. Lyric Bartholomay, associate professor in School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-director of the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease, was recently interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio by Rob Ferrett of Central Time. Listen to her interview here.


  • May 2, 2018

    WPR Speaks with UW-Madison's Lyric Bartholomay about Increasing Vector-Borne Disease Cases


    Shamane Mills (WPR)

    Wisconsin residents aren’t the only ones welcoming the recent warmth, pests are too. And health officials say the problems they can cause for humans have been growing.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more deer and warmer weather are making mosquito and tick populations rise across the country. And the diseases these pests can carry have tripled in the United States between 2004 and 2016. Ticks are driving that increase in illness. 

    "We have seen an increase in the types of tick-borne pathogens. So this is very real," cautioned Lyric Bartholomay, associate professor in School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also co-directs the Upper Midwestern Regional Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease.

    Wisconsin is among the states with the highest reported cases of tick-borne disease in the U.S. during this period. The state had fewer reported cases of illness from mosquitoes. However in 2012, West Nile virus hit the Midwest hard. In Wisconsin that year, there were 44 confirmed cases in humans and five deaths from West Nile.

    And last summer a type of mosquito capable of transmitting the Zika virus, commonly known as the Asian tiger mosquito, was found in Dane County. There is no evidence of local Zika transmission; all cases since 2016 have been travel-related.

    This particular mosquito, formally known as Aedes albopictus, can also transmit dengue and Chikungunya viruses.  

    "It feeds in the day and it’s a really voracious mosquito. They’re really hungry and they’re vicious biters. Not only do they pose a threat in terms of public health but they are a terrible nuisance species as well," said Bartholomay. 

    Read the full article here.



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