Snapshot into what Cornell MPH Students are Doing!

By Stephanie Morse, Caitlin Baumhart, and the NEVBD

Are you interested in exploring state parks, hiking local trails, swimming in Cayuga Lake, or experiencing beautiful waterfalls and gorges? Then Tompkins County, New York is the place for you! These fun and exciting activities keep you closer to nature, but you have to be careful because they also increase your exposure to ticks.

It is important to be aware of ticks and their habitats because ticks have the potential to carry and spread diseases; these tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are on the rise in the US. Between 2004 and 2016 the number of reported TBD cases more than doubled and the majority of the cases occurred in the northeast.1,2  This increase is also present in Tompkins County (TC) where there were 72 reported cases of Lyme disease in 2017, indicating an 80 percent rise in cases compared to 2016.3  To tackle this issue, the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases (NEVBD), in collaboration with Cornell University’s Master of Public Health Program, is working to educate the TC community on ways to prevent, recognize, and treat tick-borne disease.

These emerging disease threats coupled with rapid improvements in diagnostic technology make it hard to remain up-to-date with current TBD diagnostic and treatment methods. Clinicians in TC need to be prepared and ready to face these challenges as TBDs continue to rise in the area. Their role in the management of TBDs is crucial as they are the gateway between information and patients. They are a chief source of reliable, accurate information and can prevent TBD complications through early identification of diseases.

The NEVBD is currently working with primary, urgent, and emergency care clinicians in TC to understand and improve TBD communication between patients and clinicians. The first phase of the project focuses on connecting directly with local clinicians about their experiences with diagnosing, treating, and educating patients on TBDs. The information and feedback are directly being used to develop a customized educational seminar series specifically for TC clinicians. The series will address the identified gaps in knowledge and communication barriers with patients.

This is just one of many projects addressing the TBD-related needs of the TC community. However, it is not necessary for all the projects and preventions to be run by organizations such as the Health Department or NEVBD.

There are many things that the community can do to protect themselves without reducing their time outdoors. For useful online resources about TBD prevention, you can visit the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html)) and NEVBD (http://neregionalvectorcenter.com/ticks) websites on ticks!

  1. Rosenberg R, Lindsey NP, Fischer M, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Reported Vectorborne Disease Cases — United States and Territories, 2004–2016. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2018;67(17):496-501. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6717e1
  2. CDC. Data and Surveillance | Lyme Disease | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/datasurveillance/index.html. Published February 5, 2019. Accessed February 17, 2019.
  3. CDC. Lyme disease surveillance and available data | Lyme Disease | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/survfaq.html. Published December 21, 2018. Accessed February 17, 2019.

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