Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ticks and Lyme Disease: The Northwest PA Tick Taskforce

The Northwest PA Tick Taskforce was founded by the Regional Science Consortium in February 2014, and is a collaboration with the Erie County Department of Health, PA DCNR, PA Sea Grant, and researchers from LECOM, Mercyhurst University, and Grove City College.  This working group has identified research and management needs in the region regarding tick populations, species diversity, pathogen carriers, and other animal species that contribute to its life cycle.  The RSC has funded several related projects through Mini-Grants, including:

  • Incidence of Lyme Disease and maternal inheritance patterns in White-Tailed Deer herd on Presque Isle State Park, Erie County, Pennsylvania – Frederick Brenner, Grove City College (2013)
  • Prevalence of Babesia microti in Ixodes scapularis ticks collected from Presque Isle State Park – Chris Keller, LECOM (2013)
  • Detecting pathogens in the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in Erie County, PA – Sara Turner, Mercyhurst University (2014)
  • Comparing Tick Abundance on Small Mammals treated with Permethrin to Untread Small Mammals – Sarah Bennett, Mercyhurst University (2015)
  • The fall of small mammal predators and the rise of the black legged tick in Erie County, PA – Amy Burniston, Mercyhurst University (2015)
  • Prevalence of Rickettsia rickettsii in Dermacentor variabilis ticks collected from PISP – Chris Keller, LECOM (2015)
  • Detecting Borrelia burgdorferi in the black-legged tick in Erie County, PA – Sara Turner, Mercyhurst University (2016)

The Erie County Department of Health (ECDH) was the recipient of an Erie County Greenways Grant for signage and informational materials on tick and Lyme disease awareness.  Signs have been installed at trails throughout Erie County.  The ECDH performs tick identification services, and determine whether or not it has “fed”.  They do not test the submitted ticks for Lyme Disease.  The ECDH has recently experienced an increase in the number of tick submissions and reported Lyme disease cases in Erie County.  Researchers have reported nearly 50% of ticks in this region carry pathogens such as Lyme Disease.

For more information from ECDH on ticks in Erie County, click on: https://www.eriecountypa.gov/county-services/health-department/environmental-services/tickslyme-disease.aspx 

Are you a researcher or manager and interested in becoming part of the NWPA Tick Taskforce?  Contact Jeanette Schnars, RSC Executive Director (Jeanette@RegSciConsort.com).

The information below is adapted from “Tickbourne Disease of the United States: A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers” and “Lyme Disease: What you need to know” by the Center for Disease Control.


Lyme disease is transmitted to humans when they are bitten by deer ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.


Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a possible skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system.

Rash depiction (CDC)


Ticks can be found throughout Erie County and Northwestern Pennsylvania. They are particularly abundant in wooded areas  with thick underbrush and the edge area between lawns and woods. Ticks can also be carried by animals into lawns, gardens or homes.

Deer and dog ticks are the most common ticks found in Northwestern Pennsylvania, but Lone Star ticks are also present but currently have not yet been documented to carry Lyme disease. Ticks can also spread other diseases including Erhlichosis and Babesiosis.

Tick zones around a home (CDC)


Deer ticks are capable of spreading  the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The greatest risk of being bitten exists throughout the spring and fall. The adult female deer tick has a reddish-brown tear-drop shaped body with a dark brown dorsal plate located behind the mouthparts. Unfed deer tick nymphs are the size of a poppy seed and unfed adults are the size of a sesame seed.

Tick ID Card adapted from the Minnesota Department of Health


  • Wear long sleeves and pants if you are going into a possible tick area
  • Wear light colored clothing so that a tick may be easily identified
  • Tuck pants into socks or boots
  • Perform daily tick checks after being outdoors
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors
  • Use insect repellents
    • DEET or Permethrin on clothing
  • Avoid tick-infested areas


  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure to remove the tick.
  3. Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Tick removal guide  (CDC)

For more information contact:

  • Erie County Department of Health
  • 606 W 2nd  Street Erie, PA 16507
  • www.ecdh.org
  • (814) 451-6700
  • Ticks and Lyme Disease information from ECDH Click Here
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    Go Native! Erie

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    White-tailed Deer

    Lyme disease and maternal inheritance patterns on Presque Isle State Park. Learn more »

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