Virginia has seen dramatic increases in reported cases of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but basic knowledge on the community ecology of these tick-borne diseases is poor. We examined the tick burdens of 5 small-mammal species in northwest Virginia from October 2011 to December 2012. We live-trapped individuals, quantified the tick burdens, assessed the burden structure, and tested a subset of the ticks for tick-borne pathogens. We found the tick burdens to be composed predominantly of Ixodes scapularis (Black-Legged Tick), and Ixodes sp. ticks, with Amblyomma americanum (Lone Star Tick) and Dermacentor variabilis (American Dog Tick) also present at lower densities. We detected Borrelia burgdorferi (prevalence 15%), Rickettsia spp. (4%), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (4%), and Hepatozoon spp. (1%). Black-Legged Ticks, a species which has shown range expansion in recent decades, tested positive for B. burgdorferi (17%) and for multiple pathogens in individual ticks. For better predictions of tick-borne disease risk across the Mid-Atlantic region, we recommend tracking changes in tick communities by continuous monitoring of tick burdens, densities of questing ticks, and prevalence of tick-borne pathogens.
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Vol. 26 • No. 3