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Surveying Iowa’s tick presence

By Staff | Oct 1, 2010

The underside of a dog tick

AMES – In 1990, Iowa State University began a program designed to monitor the state’s occurrence of lyme disease cases. The lyme Disease Surveillance Program is supported by ISU’s entomology department.

Agencies and citizens across the state are encouraged to submit ticks for identification. The submitted ticks are tested for bacteria that cause disease, but it also helps to tell us what part of the state the species is thriving in and what part of the season they are active.

“A lot of people in the State of Iowa do not even know that Lyme disease is carried by ticks in our state,” said Lyric Batholomay, an ISU entomology researcher. “The truth is, the number of lyme disease cases is increasing each year.”

Though there are a dozen or more species of ticks in Iowa, there are three that the LDSP is most concerned about including the black legged deer tick, the dog tick and the lone star tick.

The black legged deer tick is responsible for transmitting the bacteria which causes lyme disease. This species is seen most often in areas of thick oak forest mainly in the east northeast areas of the state.

The three stages of a deer tick’s lifespan — larve, nymph and adult.

It will feed on a different host in each of the three stages of it’s life – larva, nymph and adult. It is so small it can be difficult to detect especially in the larva and nymph stages. The black legged tick has been found in 17 counties in Iowa this year. Of the 43 submitted, six have been shown to carry the Lyme disease bacteria.

Other bacteria this tick can transmit can cause human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, which attacks white blood cells; equine ehrlichiosis, tick-borne fever and pasture fever. It can transmit viruses, such as deer tick virus and the virus that causes Powassan encephalitis, which is a form of arbovirus that can cause partial paralysis.

The dog tick is the largest most common tick to the state. They are most active in late March through August. Dog ticks are carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is rarely seen in Iowa.They can however transmit rabbit fever and a disease called “tick paralysis” where a female tick, which has been attached for many days, paralyses it victim. Paralysis will disappear once the tick is removed.

The lone star tick is active from April through September. They are named as such due to the female’s white star on her back.

Lone star ticks transmit bacteria that cause rabbit fever, canine and human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, and human monocytic ehrlichiosis. Infected ticks of this species are rarely found.

Send ticks in

For Iowans who have found or have removed a tick, put it in a plastic bag with a blade of grass, and send it to Lyme Disease Surveillance Program, Iowa State University, Science II Room 436, Ames, IA 50011.

Include name, address, the city and/or county where tick was found, information about the animal or person bitten, whether or not the tick was attached, the date the tick was found, and any other related information.

The Center for Disease Control has provided the following methods for removing ticks from human hosts.

Carefully remove the tick by using tweezers to grasp the tick’s mouthparts where they enter the skin. Pull steadily directly away from your skin. Because removing the tick is your main goal, do not be overly concerned if its mouthparts break off in the process. Clean the wound and disinfect the site of the bite.

  • It usually takes at least 36 hours for an infected tick to transmit Lyme disease bacteria. If the tick is swollen and is a “gun-metal grey” color, it may have been attached for the minimal length of time needed for transmission.
  • Tell your doctor if you experience any possible signs or symptoms of Lyme disease after a tick bite, such as fever, joint pain, a rash, or inflammation at the bite site. Symptoms typically develop three to 30 days after the bite.

For more information about the Lime Disease Surveillance Program visit www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM2036.pdf

Download ISU’s tick submission form from www.ent.iastate.edu/medent/files/Tick%20Submission.pdf.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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