UArizona researchers awarded nearly $1M to track tick species and their diseases

Mar 22, 2023, 4:05 AM

(University of Arizona Photo)

(University of Arizona Photo)

PHOENIX — Researchers at the University of Arizona are building the first database of tick distribution and correlated diseases in the state in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The university’s Cooperative Extension and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health were awarded nearly $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to map what tick species are in the state and learn more about the diseases the parasites carry.

To do so, researchers are asking for public help in the “Great Arizona Tick Check” by sending the university ticks they have found on people or dogs.

“This is what we call community-based participatory surveillance,” Kacey Ernst, an epidemiologist in the College of Public Health, said in a press release. “Because going and sampling all across the state is impossible, this allows us to get ticks from a much broader area and engage people in science.

“People will be asked to send us ticks if they find them on themselves, pets or their surrounding environment. They will also get educational information about ticks and the diseases they carry.”

The research teams hope to track Rocky Mountain spotted fever — a bacterial disease spread by infected ticks — to instruct counties and rural areas if it is present or prevalent in their jurisdictions.

The U.S. sees between 4,000-6,000 cases each year with most infections occurring in the summer, according to the CDC. Symptoms include fever, headaches, rashes and nausea.

The university advises people to remove a tick with clean tweezers, grasping it as close to the skin as possible and pulling upward smoothly without jerking. An individual is recommended to clean the site of the bite and wash their hands with soap or alcohol.

To contribute to the study, participants can put the tick in a small sealed bag or container and write down the date it was collected, location, travel history and host and send it in.

The address to send ticks is posted online.

The brown dog tick is the most common found in Arizona.

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UArizona researchers awarded nearly $1M to track tick species and their diseases