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Lyme, West Nile prevention focus of Hempfield program

Jeff Himler
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AP
This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick, a carrier of Lyme disease. Preliminary indicators show Lyme disease abating during the summer of 2018 in New England, and public health authorities said they are finding fewer ticks in the environment.

A bug as small as the period at the end of a sentence is the cause of a major health concern in Pennsylvania.

Tiny blacklegged ticks, and the Lyme disease they can transmit, will be discussed at a Feb. 21 program sponsored by the Westmoreland Woodlands Improvement Association.

The 6:30 p.m. session at the J. Roy Houston Conservation Center in Hempfield will be led by Chelsea Gross, a certified Dare 2B Tick Aware presenter for the PA Lyme Resource Network .

“Pennsylvania continues to lead the nation in the number of reported Lyme disease cases,” Gross said in a prepared statement. “To stay safe, you need to be aware of the habitats where you are likely to be exposed to blacklegged ticks.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania had 11,900 cases of Lyme disease in 2017, including 9,250 confirmed cases and 2,650 probable ones. That number was far beyond what was seen in any other state, accounting for the largest portion of the national total of 42,743 cases that year.

In Westmoreland County, the annual number of cases per 100,000 population averaged between 75 and 150 from 2013 to 2017.

Ticks mostly transmit the disease when they are in their nymphal stage, according to the PA Lyme Resource Network. Many people may not be aware they’ve been bitten and may not experience symptoms of the disease for weeks, or even years.

Gross will talk about tick biology and habitats and will explain techniques to help prevent Lyme disease.

She’ll also share information about West Nile virus and the species of mosquitoes responsible for spreading that malady.

Gross, who is the West Nile virus program technician for the Westmoreland Conservation District, conducts mosquito surveillance, education and larval control in the county. She’ll offer tips for avoiding mosquito bites and keeping yards free of breeding areas.

She’ll also discuss state Game Commission research concerning the effects of West Nile virus on the ruffed grouse population.

Admission to the program is free for association members and for students with a current student ID. There is a $5 charge for all others.

Feb. 18 is the deadline to reserve a seat by calling Sandy at the Conservation District office, 724-837-5271.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.