A woman examines a long piece of white canvas with strands at the end

Susan Paskewitz examines a canvas tick drag, a tool that’s used to capture ticks, on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. Angela Major/WPR

With Health Departments Overwhelmed, Tick And Mosquito Surveillance Is Scaled Back

Tracking Disease-Carrying Pests Is One Of Many Routine Duties Departments Have Had To Juggle In Midst Of Pandemic
By Shamane Mills
Published: Friday, August 21, 2020, 5:00am

In 2018, over 3,000 people in the state contracted Lyme disease from blacklegged ticks found on deer. Susan Paskewitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of entomology, said that number just represents known and suspected cases, and is only the tip of the iceberg.

But this summer, the attention of health departments across Wisconsin is focused squarely on the coronavirus pandemic — taking scarce public health dollars and time away from other, more routine health threats. That includes tick and mosquito surveillance.

“Folks are more hesitant potentially to go in and see their providers to get checked out if they have headaches or fever. Things like muscle, joint aches and fatigue. They may be more willing to dismiss those symptoms instead of going and getting checked out and get tested,” said Ryan Wozniak, who supervises vector-borne diseases within Bureau of Communicable Diseases at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Wisconsin continues to track how many people get sick from tick and mosquito infections. But if people ignore symptoms, reported cases could be lower than they actually are during a time more people are going outdoors in hopes of bolstering both mental and physical health. 

This is a real problem.