UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Environmental and social determinants of tick-borne zoonoses in the South Okanagan Teng, Jack


Zoonoses (i.e., diseases transmitted from wild and domestic animals to humans) are health challenges with environmental and social determinants. For my thesis, I examined the environmental and social determinants of zoonoses transmitted by ticks, an obligate arthropod ecto-parasite, in the South Okanagan—a region with a potentially increasing risk of infection to tick-borne zoonoses. I first reviewed proximate (e.g., pathogens) and distal (e.g., land use) determinants of tick-borne zoonoses, and the management options to address them. This resulted in the description of an interdisciplinary approach to manage and prevent the diseases. In the remaining of my thesis, I contributed to this approach by examining two environmental determinants (prevalence of tick-borne zoonoses; and ecological dynamics of ticks and host species diversity) and two social determinants (impacts of land use practices on tick densities; and reasons for the adoption of protective practices). For the environmental determinants, the prevalence of tick-borne zoonoses was found to be low in the South Okanagan. As well, in contrast to previous works, host species diversity only reduced tick densities when there were specific changes in host species composition that affected tick-host dynamics. For the social determinants, tick densities were found to be better predicted by the type of land use practice, rather than the patch size of suitable habitat. Finally, adoption of protective practices was not related to knowledge of ticks and tick-borne diseases, but to the level of experience with ticks. These results help determine the prevalence of tick-borne zoonoses, and thus the infection risk of those diseases in the South Okanagan. They also help predict how various human activities at small ecological and large landscape scales may increase or decrease tick densities, and thus human exposure to ticks and their diseases. As well, these results can be used to develop risk communication strategies encouraging the adoption of protective practices, and reduce social concern regarding tick-borne zoonoses. Given that the prevalence of tick-borne zoonoses in the South Okanagan is low, adopting management options against ticks or tick-borne zoonoses may not be necessary. Instead, promoting personal protective practices against ticks may be cost-effective in reducing the infection risk of tick-borne zoonoses.

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