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article imageLyme disease ticks detected in U.S. Eastern National Parks

By Tim Sandle     Jan 7, 2017 in Health
Lyme disease is continuing to spread, via ticks, across the U.S. A sign of further potential disease transfer, a new study has discovered the ticks carrying the disease in eastern national parks.
The new find has come about from a joint effort between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Park Service. Researchers from both organizations collected ticks along hiking trails in nine eastern national parks. From the collected insect samples, the researchers discovered blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis). These insects, also described as deer ticks, are often infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The ticks were discovered in all nine parks.
Lyme disease is transmitted to people via the bite of the tick. The disease can lead to headache, rash, and neck pain. In severe cases it can develop into deliberating arthritis. Treatment is by antibiotics.
Discussing the find and general trends, lead researcher Tammi Johnson outlines the implications: “We know Lyme disease is increasing both in numbers of infections and in geographic range in the United States. This is the first large-scale survey in multiple national parks, and though suspected, it had not been previously confirmed that ticks in many of these parks were infected. It's quite likely that ticks infected with Lyme disease spirochetes are present in other parks in Lyme disease endemic areas, too.”
The implications of the discovery are for greater preventive measures and better public information. Measures that the general public can take:
Use repellents that contain 20-30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.
Shower within two hours of leaving a tick-prone area.
Remove attached ticks on clothing.
Dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks on clothing.
Check pets and gear for ticks.
Hike in the center of trails.
Avoid sitting down or leaning on logs or bushes along the trail.
The research has been published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, and it is titled “Prevalence and Diversity of Tick-Borne Pathogens in Nymphal Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in Eastern National Parks.”
In related news, a new method for the early detection of Lyme disease has been developed. Current tests for Lyme bacteria, close to the point of probable infection, normally produce "false" negative results. The new method, based on the screening of bacterial proteins, overcomes this problem.
More about Lyme disease, Bacteria, National parks
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