New study finds Extension offices have vital role in fight against growing number of tick bites

By EMILY STEELE | Media Communications Manager

Once uncommon in the Midwest, deer ticks, American dog ticks, lone star ticks, and others are now found across Illinois, and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are on the rise. Cases of alpha-gal syndrome, a red meat allergy, have also increased. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors, either for work or recreation, have a higher risk of being bitten.
Lyme disease tick at different stages. Photo credit: Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory – INHS
URBANA, Ill. — A call, email, or visit to the local University of Illinois Extension office can help provide some peace of mind. New research from a multi-department team of university scientists explored the role Illinois Extension has in educating communities about ticks and preventing risky encounters.

Read the whole story by Illinois Extension | UIUC here.

2023 International Freezer Challenge

Congratulations, team, for winning first place in the academic sector for medium-sized laboratories in the 2023 freezer challenge.

Amber Zilinger accepted the I2SL Sustainable Laboratories Award on behalf of the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory at the 2023 Annual Conference and Technology Fair, October 22 - 25 | Anaheim, CA

This year, My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories recognized your team efforts internationally. Well done!!!

To learn more about the Freezer Challenge at UIUC, please visit the Freezer Challenge-University of Illinois website here.

Lessons Learned from Illinois’ River Otters

By Nelda A. Rivera and Nohra Mateus-Pinilla

A river otter brings lunch to the latrine site. Image credit: Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory©

CHAMPAIGN, IL – From river otters’ environment to their behavior- this article covers a decade of research in Illinois and the exciting findings.

For the complete story, please visit the Illinois Outdoor Journal, here.

COVID-19 and wildlife: an interdisciplinary effort to disease surveillance in deer.

By Joey He | Undergraduate majoring in integrative biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

COVID sampling team — we were cold but happy and thankful for the experience and the learning opportunity from hunters, IDNR and USDA biologists, and colleagues.

CHAMPAIGN, lL. – Joey He, an undergrad student member of the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory (WVEL) at the Illinois Natural History Survey, narrates her experience participating in the collaborative effort of the WVEL along with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and USDA-WS to collect COVID samples from hunter-harvested white-tailed deer.

For the complete story, please visit the Illinois Outdoor Journal, here.

Are Illinois farmers aware of the risk of tick-borne diseases?

By DIANA YATES | Life Sciences Editor

Ph.D. candidate Sulagna Chakraborty, center, led a study of farmer awareness of ticks and tick-borne diseases with U. of I. pathobiology professor Rebecca Smith, left, and Illinois Natural History Survey wildlife veterinary epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla.
Photo by Fred Zwicky

CHAMPAIGN, lL. – Tick-borne illnesses like ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are on the rise in Illinois, and outdoor workers like farmers are at higher risk than those who spend more time indoors. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Ph.D. candidate Sulagna Chakraborty and her colleagues at Illinois led a new study on the subject that surveyed 50 Illinois farmers to learn about their awareness of the problem and engagement in tick-prevention efforts. Chakraborty spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about what they found.

Read the whole story by the University of Illinois News Bureau here.

Impact of CWD on Fetal Growth and Pregnancy Rates in Illinois White-tailed Deer

By Jameson Mori, Nelda A. Rivera, Jan Novakofski and Nohra E. Mateus-Pinilla

Deer behavior that may impact indirect transmission and exposure to CWD from an infected habitat (Tian et al., 2022). Photos: Key Deer by W. Tipton; Fawn with Mother by USFWS Midwest region.

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Understanding the role of diseases on reproduction is essential for safeguarding the reproductive health of wildlife populations. Furthermore, it enables informed decision-making, effective interventions, and targeted approaches to support reproductive healthIn the article Impact of CWD on Fetal Growth and Pregnancy Rates in Illinois White-tailed Deer, Mori et al. summarize the latest research and their results related to the effect of CWD on Illinois white-tailed deer reproductive health.

For the complete story, please visit the Illinois Outdoor Journal, here.

Deer protected from deadly disease by newly discovered genetic differences.

By LAUREN QUINN | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CHAMPAIGN, lL. – It was the height of summer 2022 when the calls started coming in. Scores of dead deer suddenly littered rural properties and park preserves, alarming the public and inconveniencing landowners. According to officials at the Urbana Park District, it was Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), a midge-borne viral illness that pops up in white-tailed deer populations around the state every few years. And when susceptible deer are infected, they die within days.


Now, University of Illinois scientists have found gene variants in deer associated with the animals’ susceptibility to EHD.

Read the whole story by here.

My Experience at a Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory

By Miriam Schlessinger

Miriam Schlessinger with Evan London during the poster presentation of her research project at the Illinois Summer Research Symposium (July 21-22, 2022). Evan London, a Ph.D. student at the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Lab, was one of Miriam’s mentors at the lab during her time with the Summer Research Opportunities Program.

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Miriam Schlessinger is a Panamanian-American in her junior year at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, majoring in integrative biology with a keen interest in infectious disease and ecology. In this article, Miriam shares her experience during her summer internship at a wildlife epidemiology laboratory. 

From the tiniest microbes to the giants of the deep sea, studying wildlife and the ecological relationships between them has been a life goal of mine. In recent years, I have become captivated with exploring the relationship between infectious disease and wildlife ecology as it sits at the intersection of many scientific fields.

For the complete story, please visit the Illinois Outdoor Journal, here.

Miriam Schlessinger | Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP), 2022

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Miriam, an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, shares her experiences as an intern during the summer of 2022 at the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Lab – Prairie Research Institute (PRI).

Miriam prepping a tissue sample along mentor, Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla.

“I think this internship will and already has affected my academic career in so many positive ways. I have made great connections with people in the field of infectious disease as well as in related fields of ecology and wildlife biology. This experience has allowed me to feel like a real scientific researcher and that has given me even more motivation to continue my journey in academia.”

Read the whole story on the People of PRI news website, here.

Occurrence of Hemorrhagic Disease in Illinois: Four Decades of Spatial and Temporal Changes

By Dr. Nelda A. Rivera, Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, and Dr. Jan Novakofski
HD outbreaks in white-tailed deer in the U.S. are usually seasonal, occurring from mid-summer to late autumn. The year 1998 was the first year with 163 reported HD cases in 16 counties in Illinois. In 2018, the number of HD cases reported was 462, and by 2019, 99 counties had reported cases in Illinois. Panel B modified from Dorak et al., 2022.

CHAMPAIGN, IL – In a recent study, 38 years of historical data were used to analyze Illinois’s spatial and temporal changes in Hemorrhagic disease (HD) affecting wild white-tailed deer.

“The results of Dorak et al. (2022) corroborate the importance of expanding surveillance efforts, collecting precise geographic locations during outbreaks, and the vital role of virus isolation in helping wildlife agencies understand and predict HD outbreaks and better inform the public.”

Read the whole story at the Outdoor Illinois Wildlife Journal, here.