$25,000 Make It Happen Grant Announced for Tick Surveillance and Analysis Program

Fauquier Lyme Support Group leads partnership of organizations to collect and study pathogenic diseases carried by local ticks

May 16, 2016 — The PATH Foundation (formerly the Fauquier Health Foundation) announced today that it has awarded a $25,000 Make it Happen grant to the Fauquier Lyme Support Group in partnership with the NatCapLyme (parent organization of FLSG), Old Dominion University Tick Laboratory (pathogen analysis), Clarke Company (a global environmental services company handling tick collection for the project), and the Virginia Department of Health (providing advice on tick collection and pathogen analysis).

The Fauquier Lyme Support Group’s (FLSG) primary purpose is to provide prevention and awareness information on the dangers of ticks and tick borne diseases so that citizens can safely enjoy the outdoors and take proper precautions. While Lyme disease has become widely known (and attributable to a bacterial pathogen known as Borrelia burgdorferi), there are many additional forms of tick borne diseases including Ehrlichia, Bartonella, Babesia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasma and more. The FLSG believes that tick borne diseases are on the rise in the region and can best be managed through awareness, prevention and early treatment.

Elizabeth Ussery, a representative of FLSG, said, “Over the years, George Phillips, Mark Hunter and I have found that the number of people contacting us to say they have Lyme disease, or a member of the family with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or red meat allergy, has multiplied fourfold. We have talked about the need to do a tick study and analysis for years. Now the PATH Foundation has made this possible for us.”

“We are delighted to be able to help fund this important study,” stated Christy Connolly president and CEO of the PATH Foundation. “As explained in the Virginia Governor’s 2011 Task Force report on Lyme Disease, it is a potentially debilitating illness that is impacting the residents of our communities.” The Governor’s report pointed to the loss of employment, ongoing ill health and extraordinary expense that can lead to bankruptcy, loss of homes, social stress, and other upheavals including lifelong physical and mental problems—all from tick borne illness.

The Make it Happen grant will help support a tick collection effort in our region to study pathogenic diseases carried by local ticks, providing an important metric on infection rates that will be helpful to local care providers and the Virginia Department of Health. The study will focus on the Black Legged tick (the primary carrier of Lyme disease, among other pathogens) and the Lone Star tick (the dominant tick in Virginia and a carrier of Ehrlichia, yet another zoonotic disease.) Ticks will be collected and then delivered to Old Dominion University’s Tick Laboratory for pathogen analysis. Infection rate data will be disseminated to the Virginia Dept. of Health and local healthcare providers, as well as through public outreach.

Clarke Company will capture the ticks using two collection methods: 1. Tick drag techniques (dragging a piece of cloth on the ground that ticks adhere to); and 2. Tick traps (deploying dry ice canisters which release carbon dioxide, a chemical attractant for ticks). The ticks will be collected from residential neighborhoods, public lands and parks, as well as from private properties—approximately 10-12 locations.

Old Dominion University’s Tick Laboratory will use the latest DNA extraction and analytical techniques to identify pathogens and produce a percentage rate of infection for those ticks collected. Currently, based on funding constraints, this study will focus on Lyme and Ehrlichia only; however, the ticks will be frozen with the hopes of additional funding in the future to perform additional testing for other pathogens.

The tick collection will begin the week of May 23, and the results from the study will be available in October. The study will provide a more detailed array of data to support treatment of Lyme disease and its co-infections within Fauquier County.

FLSG would like Fauquier County residents to contact them with information on those people who have developed Lyme or other tick diseases such as Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The group is also interested in knowing of pets or horses that have been tick bitten and developed any of these diseases. The group can be reached at lymeinfauquier@gmail.com.

Added Ms. Ussery, “We are finalizing additional sites for tick traps and drags, so also we want people to share where they encountered the tick. We hope to have a true cross-section of the county – from rural to subdivisions, to public areas such as parks, schools and trails.”

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