Warmer weather is here, and that means ticks are here, too. Whether the ticks include the lone star tick, however, is the subject of some debate. And the state’s Department of Health would like your help in figuring that out.
The state’s health department was able to confirm the presence of a lone star tick in Stutsman County recently, and has found a few of the species in other areas of the state three years in a row now, including Cass County.
“Teaming up with the public to identify the lone star tick helps us identify where this tick can be found in the state and determine if there are established populations,” said Kristi Bullinger, tick surveillance coordinator with the North Dakota Department of Health Division of Microbiology.
Lone star ticks are aggressive biters that seem to prefer human hosts to animals. The tick can carry and transmit several different diseases to humans, including ehrlichiosis and tularemia.
The bite has also been associated with the red meat allergy commonly known as alpha-gal, though further research is needed to confirm that there is a link.
Residents are asked to submit tick photos they believe to be lone star ticks to email@example.com.
Here are some tips for submitting the photos:
• Female lone star ticks have a white dot on their back.
• If possible, include a dime or penny in the picture for scale.
• Do not submit pictures of ticks that are fully engorged (full of blood)
• Make sure pictures are clear.
• Make sure you indicate some information about the tick — the date it was found, the county it was found in, and if the person or animal it was removed from had any recent travel out of the area.
The Department of Health will return information about the tick via email, though this may take several weeks.
The North Dakota Department of Health tracks various species of ticks during the summer. A majority are American dog ticks, or Dermacentor variabilis, which can transmit tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Deer ticks, or Ixodes scapularis, can spread Lyme disease, babesiosis, Powassan virus, and other diseases. While a minority of the ticks submitted to the Department of Health in 2018, the species was found in 25 counties.
Tick pools in Williams County tested positive in 2018 primarily for Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, at 59 percent. A smaller pool, 5 percent, were infected with Francisella tularensis. Thirty-six percent did not test positive for any of the diseases that the North Dakota Department of Health’s tick surveillance program looked for.
North Dakota started its tick surveillance program in 2017. The ticks are collected with the help of veterinarians and zoos, as well as Game and Fish and Wildlife Service sites.