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Louisville Health Department asks citizens to collect ticks for pilot program

Entomologist Matthew Vanderpool hopes citizen scientists will submit their tick specimens for more diverse data on ticks in Jefferson County.
Michael J. Collins
Entomologist Matthew Vanderpool hopes citizen scientists will submit their tick specimens for more diverse data on ticks in Jefferson County.

Matthew Vanderpool loves bugs, and he hopes you’ll show him some of yours. Vanderpool is an environmental specialist focusing on entomology with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. 

His department, in partnership with Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation, is asking citizens to submit ticks they find as part of their new“Spot a Tick and Share” program.

“We’re only four people going out and doing it, but if we have samples coming in from the entire community, that helps fill in all those areas in our maps so that we really know what we have out here,” Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool asks that if you find a tick, put it in a container filled with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol. Then, fill out the department’s online submission form and drop everything off at their Gray Street office.

As climate change raises average temperatures,there’s an increasing risk of “vector-borne diseases” — illnesses spread by an organism, or vector. Warmer seasons offer hospitable environments for disease-carrying fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

“If you look at the CDC’s website, you start to see this uptick over the last five to 10 years of the incidence rate of ehrlichiosisand Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Kentucky,” Vanderpool said. “So parents should be concerned, but they shouldn’t be scared.”

Vanderpool said avoiding tall grass, wearing bug spray and regularly checking children, pets and yourself are effective ways to stay safe. He recommended applying antibiotic cream and drawing a circle around bite spots to easily monitor for infection. 

Margaret Brosco, acting director of Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation, said the program aims to help the city’s park attendees keep themselves safe. Posters depicting ticks and how to avoid them can be seen around several parks.

“We have swamps and forests and all kinds of cool places to get out and be active, but when you do that, you also have to be aware of what you’re going to run into,” Brosco said. “Ticks are there, so as long as you know the protocol and the steps to take to stay safe, you’ll be good to go.”

Michael is a senior studying journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University and a news reporter with WFPL and KyCIR.

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