NEWTON, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Laboratory of Medical Zoology (LMZ) – home of the national online tick-testing service TickReport – will hold a public forum on ticks and tick-borne disease at the university’s Mt. Ida campus in Newton from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14 in the Campus Center auditorium.
Catherine Brown, the state Epidemiologist with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and entomologist Larry Dapsis, coordinator of Barnstable County and Cape Cod Cooperative Extension’s tick public education program, will be featured speakers along with UMass Amherst Professor Stephen Rich.
The event is free and open to the public and there is ample free parking. Organizers encourage registration and invite those planning to attend to submit questions to the panelists before the event at: https://forms.gle/3ecUkHygiFbVWHgr5.
Rich, a microbiologist and director of the LMZ, says the event is intended to bring some of the special expertise found on the UMass Amherst campus closer to residents of the Boston area. This will make it more convenient for more people to hear about recent research updates, and to allow them to ask questions about best practices in identifying ticks and public services available to the public and prevention of tick-borne diseases.
He adds that the LMZ hopes to offer a tick testing drop-off location at the Mt. Ida campus in the future to make it easier for people in greater Boston to have ticks tested.
State Epidemiologist Brown will discuss tick surveillance and what has been and can be learned from state, regional and national tick reporting efforts. Rich will present an update on the lab’s national TickReport service and the public hazard, exposure and risk from ticks. He has conducted research on transmission of vector-borne human diseases that originate in animals for over 25 years, with special focus on tick-borne disease. In 2006 he founded the LMZ, a nationwide passive surveillance database that tracks the activity and infection rate of human-biting ticks, that provides pathogen testing of ticks to individuals and organizations.
Entomologist Dapsis will talk about tick biology and how knowing more about it can help people prevent exposure and infection. He was a member of the state’s Special Commission on Lyme Disease and Tick-borne Illness led by State Rep. David Vieira (R-Falmouth), which delivered a special report to the Legislature in 2014. Among other things, it recommended that action be taken on a statewide level to improve prevention and public education in Massachusetts about tick-borne disease.
LMZ director Rich says that the public is too often paralyzed by fear of ticks, so one of his major goals is to focus on what each person and family can do to improve personal knowledge and health protection skills, so they feel more empowered to deal with ticks, because, for example, not all ticks pose the same risk of disease.