Crowdsourced tick image-informed updates to U.S. county records of three medically important tick species

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Date of Original Version



Burgeoning cases of tick-borne disease present a significant public health problem in the United States. Passive tick surveillance gained traction as an effective way to collect epidemiologic data, and in particular, photograph-based tick surveillance can complement in-hand tick specimen identification to amass distribution data and related encounter demographics. We compared the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) code of tick photos submitted to a free public identification service (TickSpotters) from 2014 to 2019 to published nationwide county reports for three tick species of medical concern: Ixodes scapularis Say (Ixodida: Ixodidae), Ixodes pacificus Cooley and Kohls (Ixodida: Ixodidae), and Amblyomma americanum Linneaus (Ixodida: Ixodidae). We tallied the number of TickSpotters submissions for each tick species according to "Reported"or "Established"criteria per county, and found that TickSpotters submissions represented more than half of the reported counties of documented occurrence, and potentially identified hundreds of new counties with the occurrence of these species. We detected the largest number of new county reports of I. scapularis presence in Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas. Tick image submissions revealed potentially nine new counties of occurrence for I. pacificus, and we documented the largest increase in new county reports of A. americanum in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. These findings demonstrate the utility of crowdsourced photograph-based tick surveillance as a complement to other tick surveillance strategies in documenting tick distributions on a nationwide scale, its potential for identifying new foci, and its ability to highlight at-risk localities that might benefit from tick-bite prevention education.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Medical Entomology