Workshop Helps Inspectors Improve Tick Identification Skills

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Dr. Pete Teel showing participants of the Tick Identification and Foreign Animal Disease Awareness workshop on how to use the TickApp for Texas & the Southern Region. Photo by Rob Williams

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Department of Entomology was host to a total of 52 animal health inspectors and state-federal laboratory personnel from the Texas Animal Health Commission and the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services agencies on 16-17 and 23-24 June for workshops on Tick Identification and Foreign Animal Disease Awareness.

Participants of the Tick Identification and Foreign Animal Disease Awareness workshop looking at tick specimens. Photo by Rob Williams

Participants of the Tick Identification and Foreign Animal Disease Awareness workshop looking at tick specimens. Photo by Rob Williams

Taught by Dr. Pete Teel, Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the workshop is designed to serve the needs of animal health inspectors in Texas conducting tick surveillance activities at livestock auctions, international ports and sections of the Rio Grande along the Texas-Mexico border, as well as other animal venues.

During the two-day event, participants are taught tick identification to genus-level so that quick regulatory response can stop animal movements and dispersal of ticks important to animal health.  Participants also received instruction in tick biology, ecology and pathogen transmission that are the basis of state-federal regulation and that provide support for inspectors understanding of field observations.

The state-wide tick surveillance program in Texas is the result of a successful national program to remove two species of cattle fever ticks, the vectors of Babesia bigemina and B. bovis, the pathogens of bovine babesiosis, from 14 southern states to the border with Mexico where both species of ticks, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) annulatus and R. (B.) microplus, persist, teel said

He said that the state has experienced incursions of exotic tick species from Africa that have fortunately been detected and eliminated without serious consequences to animal health in the U.S.

Known as the “Tick School,” Teel said that this workshop also trained inspectors on several skills including proper identification and collection, identification of ticks during field activities, identifying ticks under field conditions, and proper specimen submission to the state-federal laboratories.  The inspectors also reviewed biosecurity and quarantine issues related to exotic ticks and tick-borne diseases during the event.

“The animal health inspectors are part of the first line of defense preventing the introduction and establishment of exotic ticks and foreign animal diseases that would impact not only livestock and wildlife industries, but also human health in the U.S.,” Teel said.

Two of our graduate students, Stephanie White and Hee Kim, also members of the US Air Force and US Army medical services corps, respectively, assisted Teel during the event. He said that their expertise was well-appreciated and helpful.

“Their global experiences in animal and public health situations and their current graduate work on ticks were beneficial to the workshop goals, and most appreciated by the participants,” he said.

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