In an effort led by the Communicable Disease Branch in NCDHHS' Division of Public Health (DPH), a team consisting of epidemiologists, entomologists, and veterinarians from NCDHHS, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently assembled to conduct entomologic surveillance and collected more than 600 ticks over around six acres in Nash County.
The ticks were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta to undergo ehrlichiosis testing, and to the CDC in Fort Collins to undergo Heartland virus testing.
Heartland virus is a vector borne disease transmitted by the bite of an Amblyomma americanum tick, commonly called the Lone Star tick. Heartland virus has been identified in 11 states and causes a myriad of symptoms including: fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle or joint pain.
In April 2022, the second-ever case of Heartland virus, and first-ever case of Heartland virus with an Ehrlichia (a bacterial co-infection) was identified in North Carolina.
The North Carolina Tick Identification Program, run by the state public health entomologists, has identified the Lone Star tick in 41% of North Carolina counties. This includes Nash County, where the most recent case of Heartland virus was identified.
Rapid responses to vector-borne and other communicable diseases are the key to maintaining a safe and healthy population in North Carolina. The efforts carried out NCDHHS and its partners will provide a clearer picture of the risk of contracting Heartland virus in Nash County and can be used to continue to educate North Carolinians about diseases transmitted through bites from infected ticks.