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New and Invasive Tick Species in Virginia

In November of 2017, a tick species previously unknown to the US called Haemaphysalis longicornis, or the Asian longhorned tick, was discovered both on a sheep and in a pasture in New Jersey.  Since then, this new tick species has been found in eight additional states, including 17 counties and one city in Virginia.

The Asian longhorned tick is native to East Asia and has also been well described in New Zealand and Australia. In the tick’s native range, it has been known to cause Theileriosis disease in cattle, as well as a frequently fatal viral disease called “Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome” (or SFTS) in humans;  the SFTS virus resembles Heartland virus, a pathogen that may be found in Virginia’s environment. There is also some research from this tick’s native territory in Asia showing that the Asian longhorned tick might be capable of transmitting Lyme disease (from an Asian Borrelia species), as well as Human Anaplamsosis and Ehrlichiosis pathogens, and a Spotted fever Rickettsiosis.  However, more time will be needed to assess the tick’s ability to acquire and transmit these various pathogenic agents found in the United States.

An interesting feature of this tick and a major factor enabling its rapid spread, is the ability to reproduce asexually, a process known as parthenogenic reproduction. To date, no males of this species have been confirmed among the many thousands of females that have been discovered. This tick also boasts a broad host range and has been found on birds, rodents, terrestrial mammals, livestock, domestic pets, and even humans. Also, this species of tick has been found in both field and forested environments in Virginia and may be common in pasturelands where livestock might be found grazing. This is atypical of Virginia’s most common human-biting tick species, as they are more likely to be found in a forested environment.

For safety purposes, it is important to take precautionary measures to help reduce your risk of tick bites year round. Here are some steps you can take to avoid being bitten:

  • Use EPA registered repellents, such as permethrin, to treat your shoes, socks, pants, and shirts, and ALWAYS follow the product label for use.
  • Ticks typically start to climb onto people from the ground, or from low vegetation, so the use of repellents and protective clothing should also be from the ground, up. Tuck your pant legs into your socks and shirt into your pants when in forest or pasture environments.
  • Avoid any unnecessary walks in brushy or wooded environments, or grassy fields, especially when not using repellents.

For more information regarding ticks and tick-borne illnesses, visit our ‘Bugs’ and Human Health page on the Virginia Department of Health website under Environmental Epidemiology at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/bugs-human-health

H. longicornis adult (left), nymph (center), and larva (right). (Photo credit: Manigandan Lejeune, Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center)

October 21-27 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Lead is Still Found in Many Homes

Lead is a toxic metal that is still present in and around many homes in lead-based paint and urban soils. Lead can also be tracked in if parents have jobs or hobbies that expose them to lead. Children who are exposed to lead at a young age are at increased risk for speech delay, learning disabilities, and ADHD. A simple blood test can tell if your child has been exposed to lead. If you have children under six years old, ask your doctor if they might be at risk for lead poisoning. See the EPA’s home page on lead for more information.

Protect Your Child from Lead Around Your Home

If you live in a home built before 1978 your home may contain lead paint. Use a damp rag to clean up any paint chips.  Frequent wet cleaning will remove dust and dirt that could contain lead. Leave shoes by the door to avoid tracking in lead, and don’t let your child play in bare dirt around the house. If you do renovation projects, hire a contractor with RRP certification or follow guidelines for safe do-it-yourself renovation.

Lead Abatement Assistance is Available in Richmond and Roanoke

The cities of Richmond and Roanoke have obtained federal grants that will help pay to control lead hazards in private homes for qualifying homeowners. Residents of those cities who are interested should contact their local health department.

Drive-Thru Rabies Clinic!

One of the best ways you can protect yourself and your animals is having your veterinarian vaccinate your pets for rabies and keeping their vaccinations up to date.  Vaccinating domestic animals like dogs, cats and horses, creates a protective  barrier between wildlife and humans. If we protect them, we protect ourselves.
The Fluvanna SPCA will be sponsoring a rabies clinic for dogs and cats on Saturday, November 3rd.  For more information, please see below.  For information about rabies clinics that may be scheduled in your area, contact your local health department.  A directory of local health departments can be found at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/.

Rabies Awareness Week

Rabies is a virus that is commonly found in Virginia’s wildlife, especially in certain wild animals such as raccoons, skunks and foxes.  It’s important to remember though that any mammal can get rabies and that rabies kills almost any mammal that gets sick from it.  That’s why  it’s important to take some basic precautions to help protect you and your pets from being infected.

One of the best ways you can protect yourself and your animals is having your veterinarian vaccinate your pets for rabies and keeping their vaccinations up to date.  Vaccinating domestic animals like dogs, cats and horses, creates a protective  barrier between wildlife and humans. If we protect them, we protect ourselves.

For more information about rabies visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/animal-contact-human-health/.  Another great source of information about rabies is your neighborhood veterinarian.  To find a veterinarian in your area, visit https://www.vvma.org/Find-a-Veterinarian.

2018 Rabies Awareness Week Flyer

Who Do I Contact For Help With Mold Removal?

Rental Properties/Apartments 
If you live in an apartment and you feel that your landlord/property manager has not promptly addressed your concerns, please contact the Virginia Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. The Office of Consumer Protection provides information to individuals on matters related to landlord-tenant issues, and can be reached at either 804-786-2042 or 1-800-552-9963.  Additionally, the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Sections 55-248.2 through 55-248.40 of the Code of Virginia) establishes the rights and obligations of residential landlords and tenants in the Commonwealth, but only the courts can enforce those rights and obligations.  To review the Act, please click on Virginia Residential Landlord & Tenant Act.

Residential Homes
moldremedIf you own a residential home, it is recommended to contact a mold assessment, remediation, or removal company that holds a certification from the American Industrial Hygiene Association. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) does not assess the credentials of, or make recommendations regarding, specific mold specialists.

NOTE: VDH does not have the capability to provide environmental testing or remediation for mold problems. Concerned citizens are advised to follow the practical advice given on this site, refer to additional resources, and if necessary, consult an environmental specialist.

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Crumb Rubber Playing Fields

What is crumb rubber?

Crumb rubber is recycled rubber that is cut into tiny pieces and spread on playing fields and playgrounds. On playing fields it is typically covered with artificial turf, but on playground may be used as an alternative to mulch, or laid as a smooth surface.  Crumb rubber is used on these playing surfaces because it is springy and protects people from injury when they fall, provides a flat surface, requires minimal maintenance, and no watering or pesticides.
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