ECU professor using grant to study ticks, Lyme Disease

Although its not overly common, Lyme Disease can have serious health consequences. (Ashley Boles, NewsChannel 12 photo)

The Centers for Disease Control say almost 300,000 people could be diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year.

The condition is spurring interest for East Carolina University researchers and state park officials. Although its not overly common, Lyme Disease can have serious health consequences.

"Woods or even the back yard are the perfect place for the ticks to hide and when you walk or even mow your yard, they can basically get on your skin," said Dr. MD A. Motaleb, who is heading the research.

One way to contract the disease is through a tick bite and those tiny insects can be found most often in heavily wooded areas, like parks. At parks such as Goose Creek State Park in Beaufort County, where the deer population is higher, you'll find a greater chance of not only finding ticks but ones that carry Lyme Disease.

"They'll all be on one branch so if you walk by a certain branch, you might collect a thousand ticks just by brushing against it," said Doug Lequire, Park Superintendent at Goose Creek State Park. He recommends staying on a park's trail to avoid running into the ticks.

Researchers at ECU are interested in ticks as the bacteria they carry leads to Lyme Disease. With a new $1.7 million grant, Motaleb and his assistant are learning how the bacteria is spread and say it all comes down to mobility. In the meantime, wearing long pants and using insect repellent are important safety precautions.

"One tick is good enough to produce Lyme Disease," Motaleb said.

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