URI TickEncounter Resource Center to host 5th annual Big Tick Gala, June 10

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Interactive index of current tick activity nationwide to be unveiled

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 24, 2011 – “The current tick activity in your area is….” If you hear that phrase on your local television, you can thank the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center for the warning as well as for the most up-to-date information on what you can do to keep yourself and your family safe against ticks.

Late spring and early summer is peak tick season in much of the United States and the best time to pay special attention to taking precautions against tick bites to prevent disease.

To drive that message home, the Center is hosting its fifth annual Big Tick Gala at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center in Providence on June 10 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The event will feature a silent auction, an informative tick-bite prevention “marketplace” and speaking program hosted by Channel 10 health reporter Barbara Morse-Silva, and a special appearance by comedian Joe Wong, a David Letterman favorite. Refreshments include a custom martini dubbed the tick-tini.

“The Big Tick Gala is an important event that helps raise awareness about ticks and Lyme disease and also gives us a chance to recognize individuals who are demonstrating their commitment to preventing tick-borne disease out in the community,” said URI entomologist Thomas Mather, director of the TickEncounter Resource Center and URI’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease. “But more than that, it’s a fun event to raise money and attract more people to the cause of preventing really serious diseases including Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis.”

This year’s recipient of the Think Tick, Take Action Award is former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, who will be honored for his years of support in helping to secure over $1.3 million targeting tick-borne disease prevention. Past recipients have included U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Providence Journal reporter Peter Lord, former TickEncounter Resource Center scientist Nathan Miller, St. Mary Academy/Bay View student Lindsey Sanford, and Apple Pickers Foundation founder Michael Warburg.

Over the last four years, the Big Tick Gala has raised more than $200,000 to fight tick-bites and tick-borne diseases. Last year’s gala drew over 200 guests to the Botanical Center.

During the event, Mather will unveil the Center’s newest innovations, including a TickEncounter Index, an interactive website application that identifies the current risk of encountering different species of disease-transmitting ticks anywhere in the United States. Every two weeks year round, the index is updated with new information, and pictures of the different varieties of ticks most likely to be biting people and pets are highlighted for each region of the country. View the index at www.tickencounter.org/current_tick_activity.

“There are heat indices, pollen and pollution counts, severe weather warnings, and now, a current tick activity index,” explained Mather. “Ticks are so small and their occurrence such a mystery for most people; it’s not like you can just look out the window and know what your likely risk of encountering certain species and stages of disease-carrying ticks will be on any given day or week,” he said.

Recently, ABC television licensed URI’s TickEncounter Index for use in promoting pet protection products in over 70 media markets nationwide.

Tickets for the gala cost $25 and can be purchased by contacting Karen Frost at 401-874-2928 or frostee@uri.edu.