Those who like to explore and hike across the Green Mountain State are all too familiar with the post-outing tick check to protect oneself from threats, such as Lyme disease. And rightly so, as Bradley Tompkins, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health confirms “the number of tick-borne diseases in the state has been increasing over the last 10 years.”
In an effort to gather information and resources to help inform the public, Tompkins organized an inaugural conference of tick and tick borne disease professionals in March 2017. This “meeting of the minds” was meant to bring experts across the state together to identify areas of overlap for potential collaboration and to determine directions for future surveillance of tick populations.
Of the 14 attendees, three were VGN-funded researchers: Dr. David Allen from Middlebury, Dr. William Landesman from Green Mountain College, and Dr. Alan Giese from Lyndon State College. Dr. Landesman found participating in the conference beneficial to meet other researchers in Vermont and to hear what everyone’s particular skills are. For example, he learned of a new method to extract DNA from the ticks he collects.
Another example of how this conference helped researchers to network came from combining datasets from Dr. Giese’s work with that of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to determine the prevalence of disease in the state’s blacklegged tick population. Over 60% of the ticks collected through these efforts tested positive for at least one disease, information that is now publicly available through the Vermont Department of Health’s website.
In order to build on this momentum and continue to open the lines of communication between academia and state government, Tompkins is setting a date for next year’s conference. Anyone who would like more information can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.