Metro-East News

Got ticks? The Madison County Health Department might want them.

If you work outside this summer, you might be able to help scientists stop tick-borne diseases.

The Madison County Health Department is seeking volunteers to help them track ticks this summer for a new program called I-TICK. The program targets four species of ticks known to pose a public health threat. Since 1990, Illinois has seen the number of human cases of tick-borne diseases rise tenfold, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and others.

The surveillance program asks people working outdoors to collect ticks found on themselves, and record other data for five days within a two-week time frame.

Ideal volunteers are people who work outside on a regular basis, such as employees in park districts, forest preserves, mosquito abatement companies, master gardeners and naturalists, veterinarians, watershed and outdoor preservation staffers, people who work in landscaping and lawn care, etc.

Researchers at the University of Illinois will identify the ticks submitted through the program and analyze the data to figure out when and where disease-carrying ticks are most common.

“By knowing more about the timing and location of ticks, public health personnel can better inform the public about tick prevention strategies and provide information that guides efforts to reduce the number of ticks,” said Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz, co-developer of the program in Illinois.

The program hopes to receive 1,000 completed tick collections in 2018. The I-TICK program is funded through the Upper Midwest Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease, a consortium of Midwestern universities established last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and headquartered at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Ruiz at the College of Veterinary Medicine leads the University of Illinois component of this center.

Madison County Health Department will host a free, one-hour presentation on the program at 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 15 at the health department at 101 E. Edwardsville Road in Wood River. Attendees are asked to RSVP at 618-296-6079.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald