ODU tick team collects and monitors ticks for Hampton Roads


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Tracking ticks is what the tick team at Old Dominion University does often.

Holly Gaff, a professor of biological sciences at ODU, says they’ve been collecting a good number of ticks this year.

“There are plenty of ticks out there. It does seem to be more dog ticks than usual in some places but there are plenty of lone star ticks in our area,” said Gaff.

Lone star ticks make up 90 percent of the ticks the team collects. Adult females can be identified by the white spot on their backs. Gaff says they like to attach to areas like behind the knee or in the underarm. Dog ticks prefer different spots.

“Typically, dog ticks are the ones that they like to feed on the back of your head. You’ll find them up on the scalp or up around the ears,” she said.

Lone star ticks can transmit pathogens, even ones that are associated with a red meat allergy.
Dog ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but there’s good news for our area.

“Most of the dog ticks around here have been negative for anything can cause disease in humans from our testing for the last 12 years or so,” she said.

Gaff says we don’t have a lot ticks in Hampton Roads that have pathogens that cause Lyme disease — its more of a concern farther north.

“You get up to Williamsburg and the risk goes up considerably because there’s a more aggressive version of the black-legged tick that’s been moving down from the north,” said Gaff.

If you do notice a tick on you, take it off as soon as you can, and put it in a bag or on some tape, write the date down and save it. If you don’t feel well, go to a doctor right away and let them know you encountered a tick.

“Sadly a lot of these tick-borne diseases actually have some of the same symptoms as COVID-19 and there’s a lot of concern about misdiagnosis,” she said.

If you want a tick identified or tested for pathogens visit this ODU webspage.

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