High Tick Infection Rate of DTV Detected in Pennsylvania

A photo of several

A photo of several “blacklegged ticks”, officially known as Ixodes scapularis,
Photo: Smith/Gado collection (Getty Images)

Pennsylvania faces a potentially serious tick problem. Environmental officials recently warned the public that a tick population in the state appears to carry incredibly high levels of a rare but potentially deadly virus transmitted by ticks. They are now preparing to contain and further study these ticks, while reminding people to beware of their bite.

The warning was issued late last month by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. During routine tick surveillance in the state, they found that samples of adult ticks collected at Lawrence Township Recreation Park in Clearwater County had “an unusually high infection rate” of Deer Tick virus ( DTV) – 92%, To be precise.

Digital television was first discovered in the United States in the late 1990s. It is a close relative of Powassan virus, another tick-borne infection, and the two are considered bloodlines of the same species. Digital television in particular is spread by the bite of a woman Ixodes scapularis tick, or blacklegged tick, the same species that primarily spreads Lyme disease. But unlike Lyme or many other tick-borne infections, a bite can take as little as 15 minutes to successfully transmit Powassan/DTV to a person.

Powassan virus disease, of either lineage, is thought to be very rare in the United States, although there are proof cases become more frequent over time. Many people who get Powassan may not have any symptoms, but it can also cause severe swelling in the spinal cord and brain. About 10% of these neuroinvasive cases die, while half of survivors are left with persistent neurological symptoms. There is no specific treatment for the infection, although efforts are underway to develop a vaccine for that.

The sample size collected in Lawrence Township appears to be small (25 ticks in total), but it is also an unprecedented infection rate. As far as officials can tell, this is the highest surveillance rate ever documented in the state or in the research literature, and well above the 0.6% average found nationwide. Pennsylvania in 2021.

“The infection rate of ticks collected from Lawrence Township Recreation Park is extremely high. Deer tick virus transfers very quickly through the bite of an infected tick, and the health effects of deer tick virus are more severe than other tick-borne diseases commonly seen in Pennsylvania,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the agency’s report. advisory.

The DEP said it would conduct further testing in the area while implementing “control” measures to reduce the local tick population. And they urge the public to take anti-tick precautions. Tick-biting season is concentrated around spring and summer, but ticks can be active when temperatures are above freezing. The increasingly warm climate also allows populations to survive longer in winter and further expand their range.

Practical steps to avoid ticks in their native environment (primarily wooded areas) include: wearing light-colored clothing, tucking shirts into pants and pants into socks, and performing a spot check for ticks on yourself. itself and on the animals that accompany you after your entry. More tips can be found here.

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