Presentation Title

Knowledge about and Exposure to Tick-borne Diseases in Georgia, USA

Location

Atrium

Session Format

Poster Presentation

Research Area Topic:

Public Health & Well Being - Epidemiologic Research

Co-Presenters, Co- Authors, Co-Researchers, Mentors, or Faculty Advisors

Bionca M Davis, BS, BA, MPH(c)

Deltrye Jackson, MPH

Paul Fergusson, BA, MA

Marina Eremeeva, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D.

Abstract

Background: Vector-borne diseases including tick-borne diseases (TBD) contribute significant morbidity and mortality in the US and worldwide. Ticks have been known to transmit pathogens to humans and their occurrence and distribution ranges are increasing due to climate changes and deforestation. However, the general public may not be aware of the growing prevalence of TBD in the state of Georgia. The purpose of this study was to assess the risk of tick exposure and to evaluate awareness of TBD among students attending college in south-eastern Georgia.

Methods: Information about recent tick exposure and knowledge about vectors and TBD was obtained from 257 healthy individuals visiting a university health center. Blood was collected and sera tested using the indirect microimmunofluorescence (IFA) test and Rickettsa rickettsii antigen (RR-AG).

Results: Sixty percent (n=257) of the participants tested positive for IgG antibody reacting with RR-AG (titer of >128, 64 as the positive cutoff). Of the 154 participants who tested positive, only 4% reported that they had a tick bite or tick contact during the previous summer, but only 57% of responders could correctly recognize ticks. Only 35% and 15% had prior knowledge about TBD and tick prevention guidelines, respectively. Most of the participants spent their summer in Georgia (78%) and were engaged in a variety of recreational activities (94%) typically associated with enhanced risk of exposure to ticks.

Conclusions: We determined there was a significant gap between the low awareness about TBD of young adults in Georgia and their significant antibody evidence of exposure to tick-borne rickettsiae. In order to increase awareness of potential TBD, further steps should be taken to increase public awareness of TBD in Georgia and to educate individuals about arthropod vectors, the significant risk of tick exposure due to various recreational activities, and techniques for prevention and avoidance of tick bites.

Keywords

Ticks, Tick-borne diseases, Vector-borne diseases, Rickettsiae, Awareness, Risks, Recreational activities

Presentation Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

Start Date

4-24-2015 2:45 PM

End Date

4-24-2015 4:00 PM

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Apr 24th, 2:45 PM Apr 24th, 4:00 PM

Knowledge about and Exposure to Tick-borne Diseases in Georgia, USA

Atrium

Background: Vector-borne diseases including tick-borne diseases (TBD) contribute significant morbidity and mortality in the US and worldwide. Ticks have been known to transmit pathogens to humans and their occurrence and distribution ranges are increasing due to climate changes and deforestation. However, the general public may not be aware of the growing prevalence of TBD in the state of Georgia. The purpose of this study was to assess the risk of tick exposure and to evaluate awareness of TBD among students attending college in south-eastern Georgia.

Methods: Information about recent tick exposure and knowledge about vectors and TBD was obtained from 257 healthy individuals visiting a university health center. Blood was collected and sera tested using the indirect microimmunofluorescence (IFA) test and Rickettsa rickettsii antigen (RR-AG).

Results: Sixty percent (n=257) of the participants tested positive for IgG antibody reacting with RR-AG (titer of >128, 64 as the positive cutoff). Of the 154 participants who tested positive, only 4% reported that they had a tick bite or tick contact during the previous summer, but only 57% of responders could correctly recognize ticks. Only 35% and 15% had prior knowledge about TBD and tick prevention guidelines, respectively. Most of the participants spent their summer in Georgia (78%) and were engaged in a variety of recreational activities (94%) typically associated with enhanced risk of exposure to ticks.

Conclusions: We determined there was a significant gap between the low awareness about TBD of young adults in Georgia and their significant antibody evidence of exposure to tick-borne rickettsiae. In order to increase awareness of potential TBD, further steps should be taken to increase public awareness of TBD in Georgia and to educate individuals about arthropod vectors, the significant risk of tick exposure due to various recreational activities, and techniques for prevention and avoidance of tick bites.