November 03, 2021

As part of the Infectious Diseases Institute’s efforts to establish Ohio State as the go-to academic institution for vector-borne disease research, education, and outreach in the state of Ohio and the surrounding region, the inaugural Ohio Regional Tick Symposium was held on Friday, October 15, 2021, at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center. The event featured fantastic scientific presentations, enthusiastic conversations, and, even, a display of tick specimen!

Tables set up for the symposium in the 4-H center. Photo credits: Marie Klever.

This symposium was the culmination of the hard work of planning committee members Sarah M. Short, Risa Pesapane, Megan Meuti, Tim McDermott, Glen Needham, Carol Anelli, Rick Shaffer, and Katie McAfee, and was made possible by our generous sponsors at Merck; Zoetis; ProTick Remedy;  the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI); the IDI Ecology, Epidemiology, and Population Health Thematic Program; the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

We were delighted to see over 80 professionals hailing from a number of fields that touch on tick research and prevention including: state and local parks departments, public health departments, conservation, veterinary health, academia, and a variety of industries (R&D/Diagnostics, Human/Public Health & Vector Control, Animal Health, Extension/Outreach & Policy).

The morning kicked off with an introduction from Mike Oglesbee, PhD, Director of the Infectious Diseases Institute, followed by a virtual keynote address from Kirby Stafford, PhD, Chief Scientist/State Entomologist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Dr. Stafford presented an overview of the challenges in tick and tick-borne disease management.

Left: Risa Pesapane giving a short talk. Right: Q&A panel with Risa Pesapane, Tim McDermott, Glen Needham, and Kara Tarter. Photo credits: Marie Klever.

This was followed up by a series of presentations on the state of tick vectors that brought the issues home to Ohio. The Ohio State University’s Drs. Glen Needham, Risa Pesapane, and Tim McDermott presented alongside Kara Tarter from the Ohio Department of Health. These presentations, followed by a Q&A panel, emphasized the importance of comprehensive tick surveillance—as tick-borne pathogens are a growing problem for people and their pets in the Buckeye state.

The morning drew to a close with a networking session where attendees were encouraged to speak with people working in fields different from their own. After attendees learned that their cross-disciplinary colleagues didn’t bite (at least not as much as the bugs they were gathered for do), they sat down for lunch and some more casual tick talk.

Interactive networking session. Photo credits: Marie Klever.The afternoon began with our second keynote speaker, Ben Beard, PhD, Deputy Director, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who presented “Tickborne Diseases in the United States: Burden, Trends, and Drivers for Disease Emergence.”

Drs. Holly Tuten, Mark Wooten, Clarise Starr, and Karen Poh continued the afternoon by delivering a series of insightful short talks. These talks highlighted the nuances of statewide tick surveillance, the microbial mechanisms of Lyme disease, biosurveillance, and the work of the Penn State Veterinary Entomology Lab.

Attendees then split off into breakout sessions to discuss the advancement of tick research and preventing tick-borne disease in Ohio and surrounding regions. The day concluded with a reconvene and round-table discussion where participants synthesized the ideas from the two concurrent sessions.

The closing thoughts centered on the desire to enhance communication and collaboration, in order to educate the greater community to be proactive against tick-borne diseases. We hope to see attendees carry this conversation forward in their work and interactions with the different populations they serve! 

Our greatest thanks go out to everyone who made this day possible, and we look forward to future recurrences of this event.

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