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Tick-Borne Diseases

May 8, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Leslie Brooks & Benton Berigan

Tick-borne diseases are a public health concern to humans, livestock, and companion animals. The length of tick season and incidence of tick-borne diseases have increased as Missouri's climate becomes warmer and wetter. An ongoing state-wide tick surveillance program can increase understanding of when and where tick-borne pathogens are more likely to be acquired and efficiently identify any emerging tick species and diseases in the state. This increased understanding can then aid medical practitioners in quicker diagnosis and treatment, improving patient outcomes and decreasing medical costs. A Missouri Tick-Borne Disease Task Force could be created to craft a statewide action plan, draft legislation that empowers patients, and identify research gaps to better understand the transmission of tick-borne diseases as well as strategies to reduce the tick population and mitigate the spread of tick-borne diseases.

Science Highlights

  • The length of tick season and incidence of tick-borne diseases have increased as Missouri's climate becomes warmer and wetter.
  • Tick and tick-borne disease surveillance programs, proper land management, and education and awareness campaigns for clinicians and the general public can help mitigate the spread of and impacts of tick-borne diseases.
  • A One Health approach, such as integrating communication and collaboration between human and animal medical practitioners and researchers, is a valuable tool in addressing tick-borne diseases and their impacts.

Limitations

  • Citizen science surveillance programs can be limited by the willingness and capability of broad-scale public participation and barriers to streamlined communication. 
  • There is evidence that areas with high vacant housing rates have higher incidences of Ehrlichiosis, but more surveillance and research needs to be performed to understand socioeconomic health disparities that may be associated with tick-borne diseases.
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