Counting Ticks: Gaithersburg Doctor Plans Tick Drag in Quince Orchard Park
Dr. Ahmed Kilani gets about 25 ticks a day. They come to him in plastic baggies, via FedEx trucks and even hand delivered. That’s because his company Clongen Laboratories in Gaithersburg is one of the premier labs in the country that tests, label and catalogs ticks’ DNA for diseases like Lyme.
Lately, tick bites in his Quince Orchard Park neighborhood inspired him to launch his own crusade of sorts against the tiny blood suckers. On Tuesday, Kilani and a team of four others technicians in lab coats, plan to drag 15 locations in his Gaithersburg neighborhood to see how many ticks they can collect in the one-square mile area. To do it, they plan to use a white sheet and a wood board to create what looks like a surrender flag that they will then drag across a grassy area. The ticks, he said, are often standing on their hind legs waiting for a host to walk by them. The team will then use tweezers to lift any ticks they collect off the sheet, bag them and then test them for diseases.
“We have a serious problem,” said Kilani, who is president and laboratory director for Clongen, about the number of ticks in the Northeast.
Kilani said he plans to post the results of his tick drag at the Quince Orchard Park Community Center to show his neighbors just how many ticks he found and the results of the testing. It’s information he said is not just good to know but could be life-saving.
“The number of patients getting treated for Lyme’s is increasing by the year,” he said. “It is becoming really scary.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, for 2012 in Maryland there were 1,113 confirmed cases of Lyme disease and another 538 probable cases.
The Bakri family is part of that statistic. They are Kilani’s neighbors. Stacy Bakri and 10-year-old son Laith both had to be treated for Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick. Stacy Bakri was treated with antibiotics for six months, according to husband Rami Bakri.
Bakri blames tall grass in some common areas in the community and the deer who often visit the neighborhood from the nearby National Institute of Standards and Technology property for helping the ticks to thrive.
“The deer are not shy at all,” he said.
Bakri said he welcomes Kilani’s drag test.
“I hope they will not find a lot of it,” he said about the testing.
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of a blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis or Ixodes pacificus) that is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, according to the CDC. But Lyme is not the only disease that ticks can spread.
There are 14 tickborne diseases listed by the CDC. Some mimic Lyme’s symptoms.
“We are getting a lot of patients— they start out with similar signs like flu-like symptoms and it goes away; the bug then affects the body’s tissues and heart,” Kilani said. “The weird thing is everyone looks fine on the outside; but the body is falling apart on the inside.”
Anyone is welcome to bring ticks to Clongen for testing. The Lyme tests costs about $75.
“We started doing this nine years ago and got one tick a week. Now during peak season (April to October this year) we get 10 to 25 ticks a day and we don’t do any advertising or marketing,” Kilani said.
Rather than test ticks who have already bitten a host, Kilani prefers people take steps to prevent bites.
He offered the following tips:
1- Avoid high grass. If going into grassy areas use a spray called Permethrin- a repellent that can be used on pants and clothing
2- Tuck pants into socks when walking in the grass.
3- Do a full body check for ticks when coming inside from outdoors. Ticks can blend in with skin color.
4- Soak in a soapy tub for 45 minutes after doing outdoor activity. Ticks don’t like to be submerged in soap.
5- Use tick repellents on family pets and don’t allow pets to sleep in bed with you.
“I wish I could scream this prevention at the top of my lungs,” Kilani said.
It didn’t take long to find the first few ticks in a daylong tick hunt in Quince Orchard Park Tuesday. Dr. Ahmed Kilani, president of Clongen Laboratories of Gaithersburg, is on the hunt to find out if his neighborhood has a tick problem. He has 15 spots picked out to do the drag which consists […]
Dr. Ahmed Kilani gets about 25 ticks a day. They come to him in plastic baggies, via FedEx trucks and even hand delivered. That’s because his company Clongen Laboratories in Gaithersburg is one of the premier labs in the country that tests, label and catalogs ticks’ DNA for diseases like Lyme. Lately, tick bites in […]