CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — An unusually high infection rate of the Deer Tick Virus (DTV) has been detected at Lawrence Township Recreational Park in Clearfield County, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Out of the 25 sampled ticks, 92% (23) were positive for Deer Tick Virus. The DEP said the previously highest infection rate found at a single location in Pennsylvania was 11% and the highest infection rate reported nationally in scientific literature was 25%.

The statewide average infection rate for DTV was 0.6% in 2021. The virus is spread to people primarily by bites from infected ticks. It does not spread person-to-person, according to the DEP. These positive ticks were detected during routine testing.

The DEP plans to conduct additional testing and monitor the number of ticks surrounding the park. Deer ticks are active even in the winter when temperatures are in the mid-30s and above, and the health outcomes are more severe than other tickborne illnesses typically seen in Pennsylvania, according to DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Symptoms of deer tick virus can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

The CDC said 91% of patients for DTV infections develop severe neuroinvasive disease.

“This finding is concerning, and we strongly urge the public to exercise caution and take preventive measures to reduce risk of tick bites and potential infection while DEP continues to address the situation,” McDonnell said.

HOW TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS

  • Apply tick repellents containing permethrin to clothing, and EPA-registered insect repellents such as DEET to exposed skin before entering the outdoors.  Reapply as needed according to product label instructions.
  • Wear light-colored outer clothing and tuck shirts into pants, and pants into socks.
  • Walk in the centers of trails, and avoid wooded and brushy areas with low-growing vegetation and tall grasses that may harbor ticks.
  • After returning home, remove all clothing, take a shower, and place clothing into the dryer on high heat to kill any lingering ticks.  Examine gear such as backpacks for ticks.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand or full length mirror, including hidden areas such as the scalp, ears, armpits, belly button, and between the legs.
  • Check over any pets exposed to likely tick habitats each time they return indoors.

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