Jeff Powell, (402) 471-6223, firstname.lastname@example.org
Emilee Longuski, (402) 385-4770, Emilee.Longuski@WinnebagoTribe.com
Julie Rother, (402) 375-2200, Julie@nnphd.org
Lincoln, Neb. – Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was notified by the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department of two cases of Lyme disease locally acquired within their jurisdiction. Both patients reported likely exposure around the same timeframe at sites located near one another in Thurston County.
Due to the association between both cases, a coordinated environmental investigation involving DHHS, the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department, and the Winnebago Public Health Department was completed at the suspected exposure sites. Ixodes scapularis (commonly called deer tick or the blacklegged tick) were collected from the sites of likely exposure.
Thurston County is now the fourth known county (Douglas, Sarpy, and Saunders were identified in 2019) in the state to have established black-legged tick populations. A subset of the ticks collected was sent to the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Disease and Creighton University for testing in an attempt to detect pathogens vectored by the tick including the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) responsible for causing Lyme disease.
Ticks submitted to Creighton University and CDC came back positive for Borrelia burgdorferi indicating that the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is circulating in the tick population in the area. These results mark the first ever detection of Borrelia burgdorferi in Nebraska's blacklegged tick populations and the first definitive evidence of Lyme disease cases acquired locally in the state.
The detection of an established population of black-legged ticks in Nebraska with evidence of detectable pathogens heightens concern of further establishment of the tick vector and its associated pathogens in other areas of the state. DHHS will continue to work with the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department, the Winnebago Public Health Department, and other state public health partners on surveillance efforts for blacklegged and other medically important ticks.
While tick activity may be slowing down with colder weather, blacklegged ticks can be active year-round. There are simple steps people can take to protect themselves against tick bites.
Prevention steps include:
Ticks are generally found near the ground, in brushy or wooded areas. They cannot jump or fly. Instead, they climb grasses or shrubs and wait for you to brush against them. This is called “questing". When this happens, they hang on to you with small claws and then find a spot to attach and take a blood meal.
What to do if you find an attached tick:
For more information visit the following links:
CDC Ticks Website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html
CDC Lyme Disease Website: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
CDC Preventing Ticks on Pets Website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_pets.html
DHHS Press Release, “Blacklegged Tick Identified in Nebraska: https://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Blacklegged-Tick-Identified-in-Nebraska.aspx
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