No State Agency Monitoring Ticks As CDC Warns Of New Virus

There's a new worry when it comes to the viruses you can get from ticks, and even more concern here in North Carolina because the state agency that monitored ticks and tick-borne diseases has been eliminated.

Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Left untreated, they can cause serious health problems and can be fatal.

Now the Centers for Disease Control is warning about the Heartland Virus, which also can be fatal.

The virus was first diagnosed in Missouri in 2012. There also have been cases in Tennessee.

There have not been any confirmed cases in NC, but It's spread by the Lone Star tick, which is present here.

Eugene McRoy with environmental health in Beaufort County says little is known about the virus. He says, "There's not a great test for testing for it so they're in the process of getting that developed."

There is real concern here in North Carolina that we may not know the virus is present here, until someone is infected.

That's because the public health pest management program was eliminated as part of a budget cut by the legislature in 2011.

As a result, the Department of Public Health tells WITN, "The Department of Health and Human Services does not do routine surveillance of ticks, either to categorize what pathogens may be in them or determine what species are present."

Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens with the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill and co-founder of the non-profit Tick-Borne Infections Council of North Carolina, says she's very highly appalled the pest management program was abolished, saying the public is suffering.

Dr. Herman-Giddens says, "There is no program to ensure tick-borne viruses are being investigated to protect people." She goes on to say she wants to see the program reinstated, and has had discussions with lawmakers about it.

To learn more about the work the Tick-Borne Infections Council of NC is doing you can click on the related link. You'll also find information there about prevention, what to do if you find a tick on your body, disease symptoms and treatment.

You can also read more about the Heartland Virus by clicking on the link to the CDC.