The growing importance of lone star ticks in a Lyme disease endemic county: Passive tick surveillance in Monmouth County, NJ, 2006 – 2016
As human cases of tick-borne disease continue to increase, there is a heightened imperative to collect data on human-tick encounters to inform disease prevention. Passive tick surveillance programs that encourage members of the public to submit ticks they have encountered can provide a relatively low-cost means of collecting such data. We report the results of 11 years of tick submissions (2006-2016) collected in Monmouth County, New Jersey, an Atlantic coastal county long endemic for Lyme disease.
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A total of 8,608 ticks acquired in 22 U.S. states were submitted, 89.7% of which were acquired in Monmouth County, from 52 of the County’s 53 municipalities. Seasonal submission rates reflected known phenology of common human-biting ticks, but annual submissions of both Amblyomma americanum and Dermacentor variabilis increased significantly over time while numbers of Ixodes scapularis remained static.
By 2016, A. americanum had expanded northward in the county and now accounted for nearly half (48.1%) of submissions, far outpacing encounters with I. scapularis (28.2% of submissions). Across all tick species and stages the greatest number of ticks were removed from children (ages 0-9, 40.8%) and older adults (ages 50+, 23.8%) and these age groups were also more likely to submit partially or fully engorged ticks, suggesting increased risk of tick-borne disease transmission to these vulnerable age groups.
Significantly more people (43.2%) reported acquiring ticks at their place of residence than in a park or natural area (17.9%). This pattern was more pronounced for residents over 60 years of age (72.7% acquired at home). Education that stresses frequent tick checks should target older age groups engaged in activity around the home.
Our results strongly suggest that encounter rates with ticks other than I. scapularis are substantial and increasing and that their role in causing human illness should be carefully investigated.
Source: By Jordan RA1,2, Egizi A1,2. The growing importance of lone star ticks in a Lyme disease endemic county: Passive tick surveillance in Monmouth County, NJ, 2006 – 2016. PLoS One. 2019 Feb 12;14(2):e0211778. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211778. eCollection 2019