Grove City College Research: Disease ticks carry on the rise - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Grove City College Research: Disease ticks carry on the rise

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GROVE CITY, Pa. -

A study conducted by Grove City College Professor of Biology Dr. Tracy Farone shows the types of ticks and the diseases they carry are increasing in Pennsylvania.

The study was done by Dr. Farone and her students over the course of five years.

Dr. Farone says the risk of exposure to ticks, which are extremely common in Pennsylvania and may carry a number of diseases that can be spread to people and animals, isn't limited to warmer months.

"Ticks are around all year, but they are especially hungry and seeking hosts in the spring. Tick-borne Lyme disease is very common in Pennsylvania. We've been number one in the U.S. for reported human cases since 2011," said Dr. Farone. 

The study also revealed that Lyme Disease isn't the only illness ticks carry.

Dr. Farone found evidence of several other diseases in her study that mimic the symptoms of Lyme Disease. That's not the case with the Powassan virus, which hadn't been documented in Pennsylvania's tick population until this study.

"The problem with the Powassan virus is that it makes Lyme disease look like the common cold. It's not treatable with antibiotics and can lead to neurological disorders and even death. It's not nice," Farone said.

Farone and her students worked with the state Department of Agriculture, the state Department of Health and Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The group studied a collection of about 3,000 ticks collected from deer harvested by the state's hunters. 

College Officials say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention heard about their work and sought out the College's collection for further study.

Farone's research on the Powassan virus will be published later this year in the international journal, Zoonoses, and Public Health. 

The tick study produced two more papers, which were accepted for publication in the Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. 

Dr. Farone offers the following tips to avoid trouble with ticks:

  • Stay in the center of trails while hiking and away from brushy areas.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to more easily see ticks; wear long sleeves and tuck long pants into boots or socks to make it more difficult for ticks to crawl underneath clothing.
  • Use recommended DEET, or products with 0.5% permethrin as repellants.
  • Find and remove ticks as soon as possible after spending time outside, bathing makes it easier to wash off and find ticks before, or shortly after, they attach.
  • Parents should check their children, focusing under their arms, around their waist, and in their hair.
  • Only veterinarian-approved tick repellents should be used to prevent companion animals from bringing ticks and other potential zoonotic disease insect vectors into the home
  • Anyone exposed to a tick-infested habitat should seek medical care if experiencing signs and symptoms related to Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses, including fever, chills, fatigue, aches, pains, and rash.

The following students worked with Dr. Farone on the study: Amanda Hutzelmann, Amy Lind, Amanda Everett, Ryker Minch, Colin Fort, Ryan Braumann, Rachel Masciarelli, Stephanie Pitman and Abby Cleveland.

The study was supported in part by the Jewell, Moore and MacKenzie Fund for scientific research at the College.

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