A map created by Emory University researchers shows where lone star ticks are located in Georgia, giving researchers clues to understanding tick-borne diseases, while also showing the public where they’re likely to encounter the arachnids in the state.

Longer days and warmer weather means more people spend time outdoors. It also means it’s peak lone star tick season.

Emory University researchers have created a map that shows where lone star ticks are located in Georgia.

The lone star is one of the most commonly encountered tick species in the state.

It transmits diseases such as Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Bourbon virus, and the heartland virus — first discovered in 2009 that has infected more than 60 people nationwide. The lone star tick may also be associated with a dangerous allergy to red meat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Tick Talk: Which Areas of Georgia are Lone Star Tick Hotspots

Steph Bellman is a M.D./Ph.D. student at Emory and an author of the map published in the journal Parasites & Vectors.

Bellman said the map can give researchers clues to understanding tick-borne diseases.

“We can hopefully tailor this now to further tick-borne studies, really giving this first piece of where instead of kind of at random, trying to find ticks, having a more targeted region to start looking for the lone star ticks so that we can do more prevalence studies on different diseases and really communicate also with public health officials where they should be increasing communication about tick risk,” Bellman said.

It can also show the public where they’re likely to encounter the lone star tick, especially in peak months between April and August.

“When we’re in nature, in general, so hiking, hunting, gardening, things like that, we should always do a tick check, regardless of if we’re in one of these more hotspot areas across Georgia,” Bellman said. “But I think it just helps people, or I hope it will help people know that if they’re in this area of higher risk, to be more careful when they’re out enjoying nature and just be more cognizant of their potential tick risk.”

The lone star tick is very small, about the size of a poppy seed when it’s an adult, said Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, Winship Distinguished Associate Professor at Emory University and an author of the map.

“The issue we have is that because these ticks are small and because they may get into your clothes and you might think, ‘oh, it’s just a bit of grass or dirt,’” Vazquez-Prokopec said. “The key moment to prevent a tick bite is to get them before they get into your body.”

Lone star tick hot spots run through the piedmont and coastal regions of Georgia from Atlanta to Augusta to Tifton.

“And that’s really because it has a very suitable climate and environment for the ticks,” Bellman said. “So that’s really driving, the potential presence of the lone star ticks.”

Wearing long pants tucked into socks, wearing bug spray, running a lint roller over your clothes and checking yourself for ticks are ways to prevent getting bitten by a tick and contracting a tick-borne illness, Bellman and Vazquez-Prokopec said.

This story comes to The Georgia Sun through a reporting partnership with GPB a non-profit newsroom focused on reporting in Georgia.

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