Ticked Off: Researchers warn ticks may be carrying more than just Lyme disease

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STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The month of May is Lyme disease awareness month. A disease associated with ticks, but researchers and educators warn that it’s not the only disease carried by the troublesome insects.

The spring months mark the beginning of tick season.

“All the ticks that tucker down underneath the leaf litter and snow are out seeking a host. So we have a combination in the springtime of many different types of ticks that are active,” said Nicole Chinnici, lab director at East Stroudsburg University Tick Diagnostic Testing.

While blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, are mainly associated with Lyme disease, it’s not the only tick borne disease. The Tick Diagnostic Testing at East Stroudsburg tests for 17 pathogens related to ticks. Chinnici says it’s important that people know there are more diseases out there to help medical diagnoses.

“If you are a physician treating just for Lyme disease, you might not be treating the underlying causing issue that’s caused by something else. And the treatment regimen might not be affected for that.”

To educate people, Pike County officials created the Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force. The task force recently did a baseline study spanning the county. That included the testing of 1,000 black legged ticks. 123 ticks tested positive for two or more diseases. They found 38% of the ticks tested positive for Lyme disease.

“Lyme disease in Pike County has been a crisis and we can call it almost a health related issue for a number of years and this is prior to anything with COVID,” said Chairman Matt Osterberg, Pike County Commissioners. “I was not aware of this six, seven, years ago until some members of the public came to us and said this is a real potential problem and we need to face this.”

Osterberg says those who were mis-diagnosed have suffered, and the goal is to prevent that from happening.

If you find a tick on you, researchers ask you to mail it to the testing facility at East Stroudsburg University.

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