In no way should this post be taken as scientific fact. This post in no way reflects the views of the faculty and staff located at neither Missouri Western State University (MWSU) nor the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Ticks are little creepy crawlers that some may or may not be familiar with. Those familiar with ticks may be afraid of them or they may not be. Regardless of what is felt about ticks, they have been a hot topic the last few years among the scientific community.
A new virus has been found that seems to be transmitted by these creatures. The virus in question here is called the Heartland Virus. This virus received the name it did because of where it was discovered. Dr. Scott Folk at Heartland Hospital in St. Joseph Missouri played a large part in helping to name the new virus.
There is not a lot that can be said of this virus at this time because there is not a lot of evidence or proof to back a significant amount of research. With that said, there is no need for people to start panicking and locking themselves in their house while keeping their pets outside.
What is known is that this virus has affected two men in Northwest Missouri. It has been determined that the virus was passed to these men through a tick. Ticks play host to a variety of potentially harmful pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and helminths (worm parasites).
It is assumed that the Heartland Virus will not be passed by a bite from a tick alone. The tick would have to remain attached for several days before the tick’s blood and saliva would transfer pathogens to a host. Even then, effects are assumed to not be felt immediately.
Symptoms appear to be flu-like symptoms including headache, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, thrombocytopenia and leukopenia. The two men who were hospitalized were released after approximately 10 days.
In hopes of finding answers for this new virus, the CDC received help from faculty and students at MWSU. Over the course of two summers so far, MWSU faculty and students have assisted the CDC in collecting ticks to aid in research.
While there has been one scientific research paper produced in a journal, there are still questions that remain. To raise awareness on where ticks are located, there was a short study done by Dr. David Ashley and fellow students at MWSU.
Tick collection was conducted on July 8, 2013 on private property near Amazonia, Missouri. Four different microhabitats were chosen to compare. These included:
- An area near a pond
- A fence line of a wooded lot at the top of a hill
- A forested area on a hill crest
- A forested area on the slope of a hill
Within each location, two separate collection transects (areas) were sampled. The two transects were “off trail” and “on trail,” with a total of eight separate established areas. Three traps were placed in each section for a total of 24 traps. Three flagging areas were conducted at each site adding up to a total of 24 flag collections.
The traps consisted of plastic food containers with dry ice contained within. There were holes inserted into these plastic containers to allow dry ice vapors to escape as it melted. Dry ice lets off carbon dioxide (CO2), which is what attracts ticks. The plastic food containers were placed on small white sheets of cloth making the collection of the ticks much easier.
Ticks feed by going “questing.” This consists of the ticks sitting on leaves reaching out with their legs waiting to see a host pass by that emits CO2.
In addition, while the traps were attracting specimens, separate samples were collected by flagging, a method where a sheet of cloth is attached to a wooden rod which is passed over foliage. Ticks for some reason cling right onto these sheets of cloth.
It was assumed that there would be more ticks located at the area by the pond. With all of the animals that would go to this water source to quench their thirst this should have been the prime place in collecting hundreds if not thousands of ticks.
It turns out that there really was no significant difference in where ticks were located. In short, ticks are everywhere. When a person goes out into the woods or even a park area, it is a very wise idea to check over all areas of skin for ticks.
When removing a tick, it is better to pull one off with a pair of tweezers or forceps rather than fingers. Using fingers may end up squeezing contaminated blood into a host.