About Pennsylvania Parasite Hunters

 
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“Citizen Science is the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.” -Oxford Dictionary

What is the goal of Pennsylvania Parasite Hunters? 

Game hunting is an important part of Pennsylvania communities. Ticks are well-known vectors of a variety of pathogens that cause disease. These parasites are frequently encountered by hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and rural residents. 

What are the objectives of this project? 

1) To assess the species and distribution of ticks and deer keds encountered by hunters in rural Pennsylvania.

2) To identify potentially zoonotic pathogen infection status of collected deer keds and ticks.

3) To provide educational material to hunters on methods to protect themselves and their families and pets from potential vector bites. 

Why have we developed this project? 

Wingless deer ked

Wingless deer ked

While a number of ticks occur in Pennsylvania, the species most frequently encountered is the blacklegged tick  which transmits the causative agent of Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi). Other diseases vectored by ticks in Pennsylvania include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, anaplasma, and babseiosis which, while less common than Lyme disease, can potentially cause much more serious diseases if left untreated. Despite their medical importance, the distribution of ticks and tick-borne diseases within Pennsylvania and percentage of ticks that harbor tick-borne disease have not been documented in detail in 50 years (Snetsinger 1968).

European deer keds (Lipoptena cervi) are parasitic flies that feed primarily on deer and elk. Deer keds frequently land on and mistakenly bite humans and dogs, and recently the Lyme disease pathogen was detected in Pennsylvania deer keds.

The purpose of this project is to better understand the distribution of ectoparasites and associated pathogens of human and animal concern encountered by rural residents and outdoor enthusiasts, particularly deer hunters, in Pennsylvania and increase awareness and safety of these stakeholders when they are exposed to ticks, deer keds, and associated zoonotic diseases.