The Latest

  • April 20, 2018

    I-TICK program gathering data to combat tickborne disease in Illinois

    Tickborne diseases are on the rise across the nation. Since 1990, Illinois has seen a tenfold increase in the number of reported human cases of tickborne diseases, which include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a dozen more. As the 2018 tick season gets under way, researchers at the University of Illinois are launching a surveillance program to learn more about where and when Illinoisans are encountering ticks.

    “The goal of the program is to gather information about the presence of ticks of public health concern in Illinois,” said Dr. Lee Ann Lyons, a pathobiology graduate student who earned her veterinary degree at the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. (Dr. Lyons appears in the photo above assembling tick collection kits to be used.) She, along with Illinois Natural History Survey research assistant Beth Gilliam, are coordinating the tick surveillance program, which is called Illinois Tick Inventory Collaboration Network (I-TICK).

    “By knowing more about the timing and location of ticks, public health personnel can better inform the public about tick prevention strategies and provide information that guides efforts to reduce the number of ticks,” said Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz. She and Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, with the Illinois Natural History Survey/Prairie Research Institute, developed the I-TICK program.

    The I-TICK program will engage Illinois citizens across the state. By mid March, the program had identified 18 locations throughout Illinois that would serve as distribution hubs for tick collection kits created by the program. The hubs will work with their local stakeholders to organize the tick collections in their area. The hubs will be the point of contact for program participants; hubs will return the completed kits to the university.

    Read more of the article here.


  • April 17, 2018

    Justin Harbison's work highlighted at Loyola

    Justin Harbison’s area of expertise is a more unconventional one in the public health field—he studies mosquitoes. More specifically, environmental health policies and how they relate to vector-borne diseases and water quality. Harbison, an assistant professor in the department of public health sciences, spends a lot of time where mosquitoes call home—sewers and storm drains—earning him the nickname “Sewer Monster.”

    Harbison’s work took on a new urgency with the emergence of the Zika virus. Zika’s eventual emergence in the United States in 2016 caused public health officials to worry if cities were adequately prepared for a vector-borne disease outbreak. Using a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a consortium of universities came together as part of the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease. As part of this center, Harbison has been working with other public health experts to research ways to prevent the spread of diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes.

    Read more here:


  • March 12, 2018

    Q&A with our new Center Coordinator

    We are pleased to announce that we recently added Danielle Smith to the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease team as our new Center Coordinator. Get to know her better by reading the short Q&A below!

    What did you do before joining MCE-VBD?

    For the past two years, I worked as a Research Specialist for the Wisconsin Research and Education Network (WREN) within the UW- Madison Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. In this role, I served as lead project manager on several collaborative research projects that involved academics, health care providers, patients, and community partners throughout Wisconsin.

    Prior to joining the university, I worked for four years as a Program Coordinator at a privately-owned fertility practice, where I was responsible for a wide range of tasks including coordinating treatment cycles, managing administrative operations, leading outreach and quality improvement initiatives, and monitoring internal compliance with federal regulations.

    What is your educational background?

    I have two degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including a Master of Public Health degree (completed with an emphasis on public health leadership and collaborative change) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Welfare.  

    For my MPH fieldwork, I interned for healthTIDE, a collective impact initiative that brings together diverse stakeholders across Wisconsin to collaboratively work on obesity and chronic disease prevention efforts. As an intern, I worked to identify key stakeholders to involve in healthTIDE efforts and developed tailored outreach strategies to gain their interest in our collaborative working groups. I was responsible for planning and facilitating several working group meetings between public health and food industry stakeholders, the earliest of which were exclusively focused on repairing pre-existing distrustful relationships and finding common ground in order to move forward. These meetings were largely guided by findings from my MPH thesis project, where I interviewed professionals from both public health and the food industry to understand prior attempts at collaboration, the barriers involved in such work, and best practices for promoting successful collaboration.

    What was it about MCE-VBD that attracted you the most?

    There were a lot of things that drew me to MCE-VBD. First off, I loved the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the Center's work. I'm always interested by attempts to bring together different disciplines and sectors to promote health and influence change. In prior roles, some of my favorite work has been building build communication, trust, and agreement between diverse stakeholders and teams, and I thought that I would have the opportunity to do more of that work as the MCE-VBD Center Coordinator. MCE-VBD has a lot of amazingly smart, driven, and innovative partners, and I am really excited to help support their work.

    I also saw a great opportunity in this role to reconnect with my public health roots and build greater connections within the public health community in Wisconsin. Furthermore, I love to learn, and the task of getting completely immersed into the world of vector-borne disease seemed like a fun challenge.

    What do you like to do outside of work?

    I usually spend my free time hanging out with my husband and son. For hobbies, I like to read, cook, play piano, and practice yoga.


  • January 18, 2018

    Remembering Colleague and Friend, Dr. Jeff Davis.

    Dr. Jeff Davis, Chief Medical Officer for Communicable Diseases and State Epidemiologist for the State of Wisconsin, passed away on Tuesday, January 16th. During his esteemed career, Dr. Davis made vast contributions to vectorborne disease epidemiology and public health. His significant contributions include helping to identify the infectious agent that causes Lyme disease, to describe the clinical characteristics and ecology of Lyme disease, to characterize the epidemiology of babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and arboviral illnesses in Wisconsin, and to evaluate the effectiveness of serologic testing and treatment options for bacterial tickborne diseases. His expertise, enthusiasm, mentorship, and kindness will be greatly missed by all who knew him. 

    Jeff was a member of our MCE-VBD Scientific Advisory Board.  We echo the thoughts and sentiment of this message above, from our colleagues at the Department of Health Services.  We are so grateful to have known and learned from and worked alongside Jeff.  He will be missed greatly.

    From PROMED mailing 1/18/2018

    Jeffrey Paul Davis died on [16 Jan 2018] at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. He was born in Milwaukee on [22 Aug 1945] to Mynette Babrove Davis and Maurice Davis. He was the beloved husband of Roseanne Clark and father of Eli and Ethan Clark-Davis; brother of Susan Davis Silver (Larry); brother-in-law of Debbie and Ron Fellman and Russell and Lori Clark; Uncle of Ben and Kate Silver; Becky, Matt, and Daniel Fellman and Jesse, Joshua and Justin Clark.  

    Jeff was the Chief Medical Officer for Communicable Diseases and the State Epidemiologist for the State of Wisconsin for over 40 years. He was also Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics and Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He attended Whitefish Bay High School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society. Jeff attended the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and did his Pediatric Residency at the University of Florida and completed his Pediatric Infectious Disease Fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. 

    Jeff was proud to have served in the Epidemiological Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and he continued to mentor numerous EIS fellows as well as medical students interested in public health. He was passionate about public health, especially the health of the people of Wisconsin. He was also a brilliant medical detective, making the connection between toxic shock syndrome and tampons and on the team that identified the infectious agent transmitted by ticks that causes Lyme disease, and he led numerous significant public health investigations of outbreaks in Wisconsin, including the identification of cryptosporidium in the water supply in Milwaukee affecting over 800 000 residents. This was the largest waterborne disease outbreak in documented United States history. Dr.

    Davis' contributions to the fields of infectious disease, epidemiology and public health are reflected in his over 250 publications. In addition, Jeff was an avid sports enthusiast and loved watching Badger football and basketball, the Packers, PGA and tennis tournaments, and attending Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts and travel. 

    Jeff was a truly wonderful friend and neighbor and will be tremendously missed for his gentle kindness, sense of humor, and his enthusiastic sharing of his vast knowledge of all things music and sports. Jeff greatly appreciated his walks with his dog, Bodhi. 

    Jeff's family has deep gratitude to his medical team at UW Hospital and Clinics and the staff of the TLC. 

    The funeral will be this Friday, [19 Jan 2018] at 2:00 pm. The service will be held at the First Unitarian Society, 900 University Bay Drive in the Landmark Auditorium. Following the service, burial will take place at Natural Path Sanctuary at the Farley Center, 2299 Spring Rose Road, Verona.

    In lieu of flowers, donations in Jeff's memory will be greatly appreciated and may be made to the Jeffrey P. Davis, MD Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin Foundation. This scholarship will support medical students who are dedicated to a career in public health.

    Please share a memory at <>.



  • November 15, 2017

    A Vector-borne Illness Case Study -- Illinois Man Nearly Dies from Tick Bite

    Dr. Ken Runkle, Vector Control Program Manager for the IL Dept. of Public Health (and a partner of MCE-VBD) has published a case study of an immunocompromised person simultaneously infected with three tick-borne illnesses. No death involved, fortunately, but a good lesson for clinicians (and outdoorsy types), especially as MCE-VBD partners such as Mayo Clinic's Dr. Bobbi Pritt find increasingly many ticks that are carrying multiple pathogens.


  • November 9, 2017

    Practical statistics and models to understand vector-borne diseases -- workshop Feb. 8-9 2018 now open for registration!

    Statistics and modeling are powerful tools for studying, predicting, and perhaps controlling vector-borne disease (VBD), but many VBD-related professionals are either unfamiliar with these tools, uncomfortable with them, or both.  If that describes you, please explore a newly developed workshop offered by three faculty from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Learn more here!


  • October 26, 2017

    Profile of MCE-VBD Research Fellow Matthew Springer

    It's not quite true that Matt Springer spent his summer working with rabbits, tigers, and ticks, but sort of...  Read on to learn more!  


  • October 18, 2017

    Profile of MCE-VBD Research Fellow Mariah Schrack

    Just as mosquitoes move from being water animals to creatures of the air, Mariah Schrack spent her MCE-VBD research fellowship with Professor Ryan Smith at Iowa State University living two very different lives.  


Next Page