Passive Surveillance

Data to Fill a Gap

We’re accumulating a growing record of tick exposures to people and companion animals. This information brings a new dimension to studying the epidemiology of tick-borne diseases. Previously the epidemiology of diseases like Lyme were studied in one of two ways; either by looking at the distribution of human (or pet) cases of disease, or by going to the field and determining where ticks were found and how often they were infected. Both kinds of studies are important, but there is a missing link between patients with illness and infected ticks. Moreover, sampling ticks in the field is time consuming and hence is only done in a very localized way. The ticks we receive come from all over and we have the crucial information linking these ticks to their encounters with people.

Our efforts were highlighted in the Boston Globe in 2013.  The interactive map they created from data collected at that time can be found here.