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Tick-borne diseases are a major human and animal health problem for Western countries, particularly in view of climate change. However, farmers’ practices and knowledge of tick management remain poorly addressed. This paper examines this issue through a micro-local case study in a Corsican valley, France. Interviews using several methods were conducted with 17 ruminant or horse farmers. Despite considerable field experience, the farmers exhibit poor spatial and biological knowledge of ticks and related diseases, thus leading to a lack of appropriate management practices. However, the data collected show that these farmers could be an effective sentinel population. More efficient prevention could be developed locally through a hybridization of knowledge among farmers and scientists.
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Tick-borne disease risks and livestock
management: Farmer’s knowledge and practices
in a Corsican valley (France)
Dernat Sylvain, Toffoletti Hugo, Charrier François & Johany François
To cite this article: Dernat Sylvain, Toffoletti Hugo, Charrier François & Johany François (2021)
Tick-borne disease risks and livestock management: Farmer’s knowledge and practices in a
Corsican valley (France), NJAS: Impact in Agricultural and Life Sciences, 93:1, 74-97, DOI:
To link to this article:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Published online: 07 Sep 2021.
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Tick-borne disease risks and livestock management:
Farmer’s knowledge and practices in a Corsican
valley (France)
Dernat Sylvain
, Tooletti Hugo
, Charrier François
and Johany François
Research Unit Territoires, Clermont-Auvergne University, Inrae, AgroParis Tech, VetAgro Sup,
Aubière, France;
Research Unit SELMET-LRDE, Inrae, Quartier Grossetti, Corte, France;
Research Unit LISIS, Inrae, Marne-la-Vallée, France
Tick-borne diseases are a major human and animal health problem for Western
countries, particularly in view of climate change. However, farmers’ practices
and knowledge of tick management remain poorly addressed. This paper
examines this issue through a micro-local case study in a Corsican valley,
France. Interviews using several methods were conducted with 17 ruminant
or horse farmers. Despite considerable eld experience, the farmers exhibit
poor spatial and biological knowledge of ticks and related diseases, thus lead-
ing to a lack of appropriate management practices. However, the data collected
show that these farmers could be an eective sentinel population. More e-
cient prevention could be developed locally through a hybridization of knowl-
edge among farmers and scientists.
KEYWORD Livestock management; knowledge sharing; ticks; tick-borne diseases
1. Introduction
The majority of vector-borne diseases in temperate regions of the northern
hemisphere are due to acarines, mainly ticks. Ticks acquire pathogens by feeding
on the blood of an infected host. Transstadial transmission ensures that these
ticks carry the pathogens throughout the dierent stages of their life and transmit
the pathogens to other hosts when feeding again (Eskezia and Desta, 2016). Tick-
borne diseases are a major problem, and industrialized countries are largely
concerned. One of the reasons for this may be the transformation of agricultural
areas in these countries, leading to signicant changes in the abiotic and biotic
environment that may increase the prevalence of infected ticks and human
contact with them (Šumilo et al. 2008; Knap and Avšič-Županc, 2015). For exam-
ple, abandoned agricultural elds have seen an increase of rodent and wildlife
host populations (risk of transmission). In Europe, several tick species, such as
CONTACT Dernat Sylvain
2021, VOL. 93, NO. 1, 74–97
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
Ixodes ricinus, feed on humans and numerous animal species. They are important
vectors of dangerous pathogens, including viruses of meningoencephalitis, and
of course Lyme disease (Stanek, Wormser, Gray, Strle 2012; Dantas-Torres,
Chomel, Otranto 2012; Mead 2015; Pavela, Canale, Mehlhorn, Benelli 2016).
Aided by climate change, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), which is
the most widespread tick-borne viral disease aecting humans, has now reached
southern parts of the European continent: the warming climate has provided
favourable habitats for the hyalomma tick mainly responsible for the disease
(Ergönül 2006; Estrada-Peña et al. 2012; Bente et al. 2013; Fillâtre, Revest, Tattevin
2019). The rst evidence (antibodies in bovine serums) of the emergence of the
CCHF virus in France has been found recently, with the potential for its spread
further north (Grech-Angelini et al. 2019). Agricultural workers appear to be the
main population exposed to this virus (Bente et al. 2013), but there is insucient
knowledge about CCHF in health professions (Aydın and Dumanlı, 2017).
Furthermore, some tick agents are also highly pathogenic for livestock and
cause diseases that can have a high economic impact (Pavela, Canale, Mehlhorn,
Benelli 2016). Indeed, ticks and tick-borne diseases are principal factors nega-
tively impacting livestock health and production (Almazan, Tipacamu, Rodriguez,
Mosqueda, Perez De Leon 2018). Although these problems are mainly found in
tropical regions, livestock in industrialized countries could be increasingly
aected by various tick species and the diseases they transmit, leading to
signicant losses in production (Eskezia and Desta, 2016). Ticks can aect cattle
by causing open wounds that make the animal susceptible to secondary infec-
tion. Certain species can cause toxicosis which in turn can even lead to paralysis.
Indirectly and more importantly, ticks act as vectors of fatal diseases such as
babesiosis or theileriosis (Benelli 2016). Each tick bite induces stress and weakens
the host’s immune response, aecting the health of the animals.
Several methods for controlling ticks and reducing livestock losses are being
mobilized to address the wide range of related problems and diseases (Eskezia
and Desta, 2016). For most tick-borne diseases, early treatment is essential.
However, this is seldom possible because the rst signs of infection are often
imperceptible, and farmers rarely undertake a thorough, daily examination of
their animals. Current prevention and control tools, as summarized by Pavela,
Canale, Mehlhorn, Benelli (2016) and Mondal, Sarma, Saravanan (2013) include
vaccines against the pathogens vectored by ticks, development of biological
control programmes with agents such as biopesticides, and integrated pest
management strategies that include pheromone-based control tools, grooming,
pasture management, and more rarely, genetic manipulation. The most tradi-
tional mode of control and management of ticks aecting people and animals is
the use of repellents and acaricides against ectoparasites (Debboun and
Strickman, 2013), but these chemical controls must be applied frequently,
which makes them costly and time-consuming. Moreover, today, the evolution
of resistance to acaricides among livestock tick populations renders this chemical
control increasingly ineective, thus adding impetus to the challenge of sustain-
able control of tick and tick-borne diseases.
In order to explain the failures of technical or organizational solutions and
improve management methods, scholars have begun to develop original
insights on actors’ practices and their perceptions of the danger (Bronner,
Hénaux, Fortané, Hendrikx, Calavas 2014; Relun et al. 2015). The important
links between farmers’ perceptions of tick-borne diseases, their actual knowl-
edge and experiences, and the management practices employed on farms
have been addressed in a few studies (Bayles, Evans, Allan 2013; Ricco and
Vezzosi, 2018; Zöldi, Turunen, Lyytikäinen, Sane 2017), but these aspects remain
poorly assessed in industrialized countries. Social sciences have also been less
prominent than ethnoveterinary approaches in developing countries
(Mugambi, Wesonga, n.d.ungu 2012; Nyahangare, Mvumi, Mutibvu 2015;
Kioko, Baker, Shannon, Kiner 2015; Sungirai, Moyo, De Clercq, Madder 2016).
In light of this fact, the work by Mutavi et al. (2018) that distinguishes between
techne and metis applications in tick control in Kenya is particularly interesting.
Techne refers to technical scientic knowledge that is systematically derived,
universal, and organized analytically. Metis addresses contextualized knowl-
edge that is generated, repeated, and adapted by local users through local
observations and experiments. In addition, Mutavi et al. (2018) incorporate the
approaches of Shove et al. (2012) in order to dene practice as combinations of
competence (skills and routines), material (things and bodies), and meaning
(attached) that are enacted and reproduced. Thus, disparity in farmers’ knowl-
edge and practices of eective and accepted prevention strategies could lead
to signicant disparities in the management of tick-borne diseases and result in
the coexistence of controlled and uncontrolled livestock systems.
In addition, studies of other diseases highlight that variations in the spatial
perception of farmers (distance between cases of disease, distance of farm to
an existing case) and associated spatial factors (viewing wildlife on their
pastures, their proximity to neighbouring protected areas) have an important
inuence on disease management. They have also underscored the impor-
tant dierences between “objective” measures of risk, such as epidemiologi-
cal estimates of disease prevalence, and subjective measures of disease
concern, such as risk perception and acceptability of management actions
(Brook and McLachlan, 2006; Mankad and Curnock, 2018). Thus, a better
understanding of the livestock farmers’ knowledge is an essential element
in developing eective health protection systems (Hoischen-Taubner,
Bielecke, Sundrum 2018) where the farmers themselves are involved (Calba
et al. 2015; Charrier, Hannachi, Barbier 2020).
Within a multidisciplinary research project combining epidemiology and
social sciences, we have focused on these farmers’ perceptions of tick-borne
disease risks. The purpose of this article is threefold: to highlight the elements
familiar to the farmers (local knowledge and experience) in their perceptions of
tick diseases, to understand how this risk is framed at a local level, and to identify
gaps between an individual’s understanding of the risk and his or her practices.
2. Material & methods
2.1. Study area & design
This study took place on the French island of Corsica, which is located o the
western shore of the Italian peninsula, 11 km north of the Italian island of
Sardinia. Corsica is sparsely populated (32 inhabitants/km
) and its economy is
mainly based on tourism (European Union (EU) 2013). The centre of the island is
mountainous, forming a single chain of 21 summits more than 2000 metres
above sea level. On the eastern side of the island, the valleys descend to a plain
with milder slopes and atlands that dier signicantly from the island’s other
valleys. This study focuses on a specic valley shown in Figure 1, the Tavignano
valley, situated between the central city of Corte and the eastern plane.
The valley’s topography is characterized by the relief typical of mid-
mountain areas. The altitude varies between 450 m at the beginning of the
valley (Corte) and 100 m at the end of the valley (arriving on the plain), but
also along the valley between the bed of the Tavignano river and the ridges
that border it. Vegetation in the pastures reects the inuence of both
Mediterranean and mountain climates. We chose this location for three
reasons. Firstly, markers of the emergence of CCHF virus were recently
detected in Corsica (Grech-Angelini et al. 2019), raising an important health
issue for French authorities, especially in Corsica where tourism is important,
and agriculture is a signicant activity. The emergence of the virus implies the
permanent installation of the tick species, Hyaloma marginatum, implicated
in vectoring the disease. This tick’s arrival in Corsica is probably a result of
climate change dynamics that have participated in the creation of favourable
conditions. CCHF virus antibodies have been found in cattle, sheep, and goats
from farms located in municipalities in the Tavignano valley (Corte, Venaco,
Focicchia, Tralonca, Casanova, Giuncaggio, Pancheraccia, Ponte Leccia).
Secondly, there is a large amount of existing research experience focused
on this valley, notably on livestock (Paoli and Kriegk, 2015) and epidemiolo-
gical issues (Pavio et al. 2016; Jori et al. 2016; Charrier et al. 2018) because the
valley has an important history of transhumant livestock systems, which are
qualied as a zoonotic risk factor. Thirdly, the coexistence of tourism and
farming professionals in the valley oers the opportunity to assess dierences
in their perspectives of tick-borne disease risks (Dernat and Johany, 2019a).
The study was conducted between the 3rd and the 27th of July 2019. In light of
the study area, time, and resources available, 17 people were interviewed and are
described in Table 1. These respondents represent the quasi-totality of livestock
professionals in the valley, lending local and territorial coherence. This is an
important dimension of the study because the purpose is to understand practices
and knowledge rooted in local culture and traditions. This aspect is not usually
captured in the questionnaires typically used that are more likely to reect global
trends. A micro-local approach therefore provides a more exhaustive view and
a social-territorial coherence even if the results are inuenced by local
2.2. Data collection
The selected individuals were subjected to a one-to-one semi-structured inter-
view lasting between one and two hours. The interview was designed to reveal
knowledge and perception of ticks and tick-borne diseases and to collect data
on their livestock management practices related to tick development. First, the
participants are presented with a map on which the survey area is represented
by a polygon. This location mapping exercise is based on the mental map
method used to understand the participant’s socio-spatial representations of
tick risks (Dernat and Johany, 2019b). During the exercise, they are asked to
explain the reasons for placing ticks on the map. This makes it possible to see
whether or not they associate the presence of ticks with spatial elements, and
if so, which ones (specic locations, particular vegetation, the presence of
animals, altitude, etc.). Their reasoning also helps identify the source of this
Figure 1. Map of the study area.
spatial knowledge: personal experiences, local knowledge derived from word
of mouth, scientic knowledge. Then, a standardized questionnaire is pro-
posed in order to assess the participant’s knowledge of ticks and the factors
that inuence their presence, the tick’s functioning and relationship to dis-
eases, and his or her personal practices of prevention and management with
regard to ticks and animals. The questionnaire is a proven and common
method to assess knowledge and identify shared behaviours and practices
regarding ticks (Aenishaenslin, Bouchard, Ko, Ogden 2017). The questions
are based on several studies, including a recent study on pharmacists’ knowl-
edge of ticks and Lyme disease. Finally, a comprehensive interview (inspired by
Claeys and Mieulet (2013) was conducted to explore how the participant’s
representations and their knowledge about tick biology and prevention are
linked to their tick management practices. Although the participants’ inter-
views followed an established grid, the questions were allowed to evolve in
order to improve the understanding of the problem.
The data collection process was pre-tested with three researchers and
farmers in Corsica and modied accordingly before being implemented in
the study. The nal version was administered by one interviewer who was
also involved in its design. The interviewer recorded all the interviews in situ
with a dictaphone, and the data were entered in a database.
2.3. Analysis methods
The collected data were classied and recorded under a key enabling the
identication of each set of data, each place of collection, and each individual
participating anonymously. The audio recordings were fully transcribed.
Mental maps and their transcriptions were analysed individually and manu-
ally by a specically developed method.
Table 1. The description of the participants.
ID Age Gender Activity
ID 1 53 Male Farmer
ID 2 28 Female Farmer
ID 3 56 Male Farmer
ID 4 68 Male Farmer
ID 5 37 Male Farmer
ID 6 25 Male Farmer
ID 7 48 Male Farmer
ID 8 67 Male Farmer
ID 9 70 Male Farmer
ID 10 72 Male Farmer
ID 11 23 Male Ranch manager
ID 12 45 Female Ranch manager
ID 13 35 Male Farmer/Hunter
ID 14 59 Male Farmer/Hunter
ID 15 62 Male Farmer/Hunter
ID 16 29 Male Farmer/Hunter
ID 17 52 Male Farmer/Veterinarian
For the graphical analysis, each map was studied individually. To do this,
the digitized gures were drawn for each of them. These gures were then
compiled on the same map to give an overview of the presence of ticks within
the dened territory. Then, an analysis of the discourse was carried out by
identifying the elements of the space (places, types of vegetation or other)
that the participants refer to when locating the presence of ticks.
The knowledge about tick and tick born disease from questionnaires was
analysed statistically: univariate statistical analyses for each question.
A thematic analysis of the interviews was made on the basis of the
monographic analysis of each interview. A transversal analysis table of the
central themes discussed during the interviews was drawn up and then
interpreted by the researchers on the basis of a rating index visible in
Appendix. This provides an overview of the participants’ perception, knowl-
edge, practices and experience of ticks, and allows us to observe the dierent
tendencies with respect to the dierent themes studied. This more qualitative
analysis makes it possible to conrm or invalidate, but above all to clarify the
elements of the previous questionnaire.
Finally, the data set was cross-referenced to obtain response proles.
3. Results
3.1. Map analysis
The compilation of all the gures on the same map covers the entire territory
of investigation. With the exception of a few individuals, the vast majority of
participants represented their grazing areas on the map. They designated
these spaces in a more or less precise manner and showed a more or less
accurate knowledge of the random presence of ticks within the spaces they
designated. The spaces were represented on the basis of their personal
experience. Their maps show that the entire survey area is an area where
ticks can be found. This demonstration of knowledge on the location of ticks
corroborates the data obtained by the analysis of the discourse, namely the
representation of ticks as being omnipresent in the Tavignano Valley. The
cross-referencing of the gures shows that, overall, the hollow of the valley is
the most represented space, but it also highlights three areas along the river
(Figure 2).
The perception of ticks as almost omnipresent in the valley could explain
the diculty participants had to precisely locate them spatially. However, all
the participants did make reference to the small number, or even the
absence, of ticks in the mountains as soon as a certain altitude was crossed.
Except that you can remove the high mountain, where for me [. . .] on the
high mountain you have no risk, you see less ticks”. – ID8.
This perception of ticks as being scattered throughout nature, as well as
the binary vision of their presence according to altitude, reects certain but
imprecise knowledge of their presence in the valley. Nevertheless, the parti-
cipants subsequently supported their comments by identifying the dierent
spatial elements to which they associate the presence of ticks. Almost all of
the participants associate the presence of ticks with types of environment
where vegetation is lower and mainly composed of grasses.
“Yes, rather the grass, the vegetation, it’s not . . . We’re not going to nd that
in the rocks, in the Tavignano” – ID11.
In addition to the frequent mention of ticks in tall grasses, a signicant
proportion of participants associate the presence of ticks with cistus shrubs
(commonly called rockrose in English). Cistus and their owering appear as
a spatio-temporal indicator of the presence of ticks.
“When a rockrose starts to bloom, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, there comes
out a little white beard, now it’s tick season”. – ID1.
This association of ticks with cistus probably has its origin in local beliefs
that have not been specically identied here. But another insect (Philaenus
spumarius) is often found on cistus during the insect’s larvae stage and could
be a source of confusion. The participants directly describe certain biotopes
as favourable to the presence of ticks. This is explicitly reported by the farmer/
veterinarian (ID 17) who is competent to dierentiate between the two
Figure 2. Map locating main areas of tick presence as indicated by respondents.
insects and who believes that this confusion exists among other farmers.
Globally, farmers suggested that ticks could be found in both dry and wet
areas as long as the vegetation is low, but some participants believe that ticks
are more often found in wetlands. The borders of the Tavignano are fre-
quently mentioned because they are seen as having a higher tick density than
the rest of the area. Most of the participants appear to identify tick habitats
based on their personal experience of observing ticks on their animals in
places where the presence of ticks is well known.
The spatial knowledge of tick density seems limited: Although the percep-
tion of a large tick presence is held by most of the participants (13 out of 17),
only a few of them distinguish places with a large number of ticks from places
with a small number of ticks (5 out of 17). During the interviews, most spatial
representations of ticks are noted graphically on the surface map (14 out of
17). This type of representation can be explained by the fact that the observa-
tion of ticks on livestock is the dominant way that the participants spatially
localize ticks. In the discourse, they assume that ticks are everywhere, but
graphically, they only locate them in the spaces that they and the livestock
3.2. Questionnaire analysis
A total of 15 questionnaires were completed. One participant did not wish to
respond to the questions, and a choice was made not to send the question-
naire to the veterinarian who participated in the study.
Identication of ticks and factors inuencing their presence
All of the participants in the study have been confronted with ticks. The
questionnaire shows that they are able to identify the ticks themselves and
the factors that inuence their presence. They have some spatial and tem-
poral knowledge of ticks acquired through experience on the terrain, but they
also make reference to elements of natural spaces that are not commonly
identied in risk-prevention messages. Contrary to scientic modelling at the
national level, half of the participants have noticed no change in the tick
population, and one-third of them report a decrease in the tick population.
On-third of the participants, particularly ranch managers and farmers who are
also hunters, report obtaining information on ticks through the veterinarian.
Two-thirds of them maintain that they do not have access to information or
that they obtain it through the media and word of mouth. The responses to
the questionnaire indicate that the participants’ knowledge of the subject is
primarily based on personal experience and local wisdom and thus lacks
precise scientic knowledge about ticks.
Knowledge of ticks and tick-borne diseases
The participants have much less knowledge about issues related to the
functioning of ticks and tick-borne diseases. They are aware of the ability of
ticks to transmit diseases, but they have little knowledge of the dierent
diseases that can be transmitted to humans and animals. Lyme disease is the
risk most familiar to the participants; they explain that they became aware of
this disease either through the media or through the knowledge of people
aected. They do not know the dierent stages of development when the tick
can transmit diseases, nor the dierent species of ticks present in Corsica. This
shows that the participants have limited knowledge about the tick lifecycle
and do not understand the mechanism of disease transmission (principle of
reservoir hosts and vectors, and the fact that not all ticks are vectors of all
diseases). In terms of potential hosts, participants responded by citing their
experience and observation. Therefore, they mainly identify host animals
among those that they have personally seen with ticks (dogs, cows, wild
boars, horses). Half of them believe that the risk of contamination exists
immediately or within the rst few hours after a bite. However, more than
a third of them indicate that they do not know when the risk occurs or
estimate that contamination occurs at least 24 hours after a bite. This belief
is a factor that increases the risk of contamination in the event of a tick bite.
Prevention practices for individuals and animals
In terms of prevention, the questionnaire shows that less than half of the
participants are aware of the dierent methods of prevention recommended
by public health messages (wearing long clothes and high socks, using
repellents). However, even among the participants claiming knowledge
about prevention, most explained that they know these methods but refute
their eectiveness, always with a reference to their personal experience. Most
of the participants maintained that the most eective way to protect against
ticks is through body inspection after exposure. Almost all of them carry out
a total body inspection, or at least inspect specic parts of the body after
potential exposure to ticks. To remove a tick, half of them reported using only
manual techniques (ngers, tick puller), while the other half reported using
solvents (gasoline, alcohol, ether). When solvents are used to sedate or poison
the tick, the process can dissolve blood and body tissue; the risk of contam-
ination is increased by the potential spread of disease pathogens. Following
the bite, everyone claims to disinfect the area and more than half of them
monitor the bite area for the possible appearance of a red spot. On the
subject of animal prevention, the participants mainly use chemical treat-
ments and do not know of any alternative means.
3.3. Interview analysis
A table was created (Table 2) based on the monographic analysis of each
interview followed by a thematic analysis. It provides an overview of the
participants’ representation, knowledge, practices and experiences with ticks.
The objective of this overview is to observe the dierent trends with regard to
the dierent themes studied and to identify proles.
The table shows the degree of risk from tick bites as perceived by the
participants. Half of them did not perceive ticks as a risk. The other half
perceived ticks as either a low (ve individuals), moderate (one individual),
or high risk (two individuals), or as a central health concern in their activities
(two individuals). This highlights the relatively low perception of tick-bite risk.
Indeed, three quarters of the participants did not perceive ticks as a risk to
themselves or their activities, or they did so only to a small extent.
The table shows that the most of the participants’ knowledge of risk was
limited to the simple fact that ticks are capable of transmitting diseases to
humans and animals (14 individuals). Two individuals did not know about the
ability of ticks to transmit diseases to animals. One individual did not know
that ticks can transmit any diseases (knowledge of allergic risk only). Three
individuals had specic knowledge of ways to mitigate the risk of disease in
the event of being bitten. And among these individuals, two have knowledge
about the tick’s life cycle and functioning, knowledge which helps in the
adoption of appropriate management practices.
The table also shows the use of dierent animal health management practices
among livestock farmers and equestrian centres. Practices indexed between 1
and 3 are dened as weak or non-preventive management practices. Among the
participants, ve individuals have poor health management practices: three of
Table 2. The rating for each theme of the thematic analysis (n = 17). Each numbers’
signification is described in a rating index provided in the Appendix.
ID Risk perception Knowledge Practices Experiences
ID 1 2 1 4 4
ID 2 2 5 5 4
ID 3 1 2 2 4
ID 4 2 2 4 4
ID 5 1 3 4 4
ID 6 1 3 1 3
ID 7 1 3 4 3
ID 8 1 3 1 4
ID 9 1 3 3 4
ID 10 1 3 4 4
ID 11 5 3 5 4
ID 12 5 3 5 4
ID 13 1 3 4 1
ID 14 1 3 - 3
ID 15 4 3 5 5
ID 16 3 5 1 5
ID 17 4 5 5 5
them have no management practices, one practices grazing, and the last one
uses chemicals only on a case-by-case basis in response to health problems, but
not in their prevention. On the other hand, a clear majority of the participants (11
individuals) have strong health management practices. Six of them systematically
use chemical treatments (once or twice a year), and ve of them systematically
use chemical treatments throughout the year.
Finally, the table shows the participants’ degree of personal experience
with tick risk. Eleven individuals in the population have already been bitten
by a tick and are aware of at least one person who has suered health
complications from a tick bite. Four individuals have themselves suered
health complications from a tick bite, three individuals have already suered
tick bites without complications. Only two individuals claim to have no
experience with humans and tick bites. These gures conrm the partici-
pant’s status as a particularly exposed population. Another signicant fact is
that three-quarters of them have experience with health complications due
to tick bites, either directly or through their relatives.
3.4. Cross-referencing map, questionnaire and interview data
Observation of tick-risk management practices for animals shows that indivi-
duals who have intensive management practices have either a strong percep-
tion of risk, a personal experience with health consequences from tick bites,
or a high level of knowledge about ticks. The choice to classify the population
into dierent proles based on practices was obvious for two reasons. First,
the practices reect a certain relationship to their environment that the
participants do not always express explicitly. Second, when observing the
practices of individuals, three categories of practices were clearly evident and
evenly distributed among the participants. Information from the spatializa-
tion and the questionnaire helped to rene the proles.
Implementation of intensive tick management
The individuals in equestrian centres had the highest perception of risk. Ticks
represent a signicant risk to the health of these individuals who are in
constant contact with animals. But above all, tick management is an obliga-
tion for them because ticks have a strong and continuous impact on the
health of their animals. They represent health consequences that involve
dicult treatments that are themselves a risk to the animal’s health as well
as posing a nancial burden.
“Last year, we had a few, even with the treatments, we are not immune to
piroplasmosis, and it costs money. It’s expensive because in addition to the
treatment of the horse, there is still a convalescence of a month, a month and
a half for healing. It is an expensive treatment and the risk of losing a horse that
we miss during the season”. – ID11.
Ticks represent such a signicant health and nancial impact that the
intensive use of chemical treatments, in spite of their substantial cost, is
perceived as mandatory by equestrian centre managers.
“We stopped Versatrine® for two years because it was no longer funded. We
couldn’t get it; it was very expensive. We tried to nd other solutions that were
not very eective, and we went back to Versatrine®. We make a nancial eort
for the well-being of our horses”. – ID12.
Tick management appears to be a considerable nancial challenge for the
equine sector. The nancial burden is reected by a strong perception of tick
risk. This perception of risk is accentuated by certain beliefs. Local actors
believe that Equidae are particularly prone to ticks. They also believe that
Corsica and the Tavignano valley are particularly infested with ticks.
“What I know about the continent [continental France], what I believe, is that
there are not as many ticks, piroplasmosis in many regions in France, they do not
know about it”. – ID11.
The other two participants with intensive management practices had
a signicant tick bite experience with health consequences. One of them con-
tracted Lyme disease and had to be hospitalized twice; the other had a severe
swelling of the arm that lasted several days. However, linking the intensive
management practices of these two individuals to their personal experiences
with disease or physical reactions seems risky when looking closely at each case.
One of the individuals is a veterinarian (ID 20) and, as such, has a singular
awareness of health problems. The second individual (ID 2) manages a horse
farm. While she does treat her animals intensively, these treatments are mainly
intended to control ies. Her concern for ticks is based almost exclusively on
a perception of the risks to herself. She shows a relatively low perception of tick-
bite risk but justies the management practices by an overall awareness of health
issues. This respondent justied her sensitivity to these questions and practices
with reexive feedback on her scientic training and knowledge about ticks. The
two cases testify to the fact that their management practices are not simply
a response to the phenomenon in question, but also a function of the way in
which health management is conceived in its entirety and the related knowledge.
Implementation of systematic tick management
The participants who implement systematic management practices (periodic
chemical treatment not related to intermittent use) have either a strong
perception of tick-bite risk or signicant personal experience. However,
another group (one-third) of individuals who systematically use chemical
treatments do not have a strong risk perception or signicant personal
experience. It is important to understand the meaning these individuals
give for their practices. During the interviews, participants were frequently
asked to explain their management practices. The interviews showed that in
most cases the chemical treatments are not used on a xed date but occur
between mid-spring and early summer. Each farm manager has his own set of
criteria for determining the date of application. Some take into account the
appearance of ticks, while others rely on the weather.
“We are going to treat them at the beginning of June, in July, I will give
a treatment boost, but here too, in relation to bluetongue, it will protect them
a little bit and inevitably the ticks will also be aected”. ID13.
“Before that, no, it’s rare to treat. It’s when the tick season starts”. – ID7.
Still others never treat before the period when they shear the animals
(shearing of the animals and weather are linked). Overall, these individuals
apply treatment between mid-April and late June.
“You have to do this after mowing, because it takes time and the sheep leave
(on pasture). They are mowed, a week later, we put the product through and it’s
eective”. – ID1.
“The treatment, we’re going to do it the moment we get into the heat of the
sheep. Let’s say at the end of April.“ – ID5.
These livestock farmers systematically treat their entire herd once a year.
They may treat a second time when they consider it necessary. The most
frequently used treatment is Versatrine® but some farmers also use Butox® or
Deltanil®. In France, these treatments are generally indicated for use in
ectoparasite control, and for Butox® and Deltanil® this includes ticks
(Coudert 2019). But in these particular cases, the treatments are primarily
intended to prevent mosquitoes that can be vectors of BTV (bluetongue
virus). It is the prevention of bluetongue that introduced and made the
practice systematic among these farmers. Most of them are not sure of the
impact of these treatments on tick populations. These circumstances reect
their limited technical knowledge on the control of ticks.
“We do this for ticks too . . . but especially mosquitoes, related to blueton-
gue”. – ID5.
“We treat for mosquitoes, but I think it must be against ticks too”. – ID10.
Farmers unanimously consider these chemical treatments to be eective.
Especially, those who have experienced the diculties of managing health
issues before the arrival of chemical treatments. This may explain the fact that
the use of chemical treatments has been integrated into their practices.
There was no Versatrine®, nothing. Even when the sheep had worms, there
was only a little bit of Cresyl®. Now you put a little spray on a sting, and the
next day there are no ticks left”. – ID10.
No management practice
Another group of farmers do not implement external pest management prac-
tices. All but one of these individuals oer similar reasons as justication for the
absence of practices. Overall, they explain that they are not confronted with
ticks, or that they are confronted with them in insignicant proportions that do
not require the use of chemical treatments or other methods of control.
“I don’t treat because I don’t have a problem with ticks”. – ID6.
Some of them feel the use of chemical treatments does not seem necessary,
because the current situation is much less problematic than they experienced
in the past. In addition the price of chemical treatments is perceived as high.
“Twenty years ago, there were many more [ticks], cows were systematically
treated every two months. Since then, in a manner of speaking, I haven’t seen
any more.“ – ID9.
“Now a bottle of ¾ of a litre is two hundred euros and we have to pay for it.
Since there are no ticks, we don’t use them”. – ID3.
These individuals have similar characteristics with respect to ticks. They
have a low risk perception, their knowledge of ticks is consistent with their
experiences and observations, and they have had at least one bite experi-
ence. Only one individual (ID16) has a dierent perspective on ticks. This
participant showed a strong perception of tick risk and a high level of knowl-
edge at the time of the interview. He also claimed extensive experience with
tick bites due to shing and hunting activities, during which he is particularly
attentive to the quantities and varieties of ticks he meets. This individual is
the only pig farmer in this study. In his opinion, pigs are not particularly
aected by ticks, but he does not oer any further explanation.
3.5. Possible bias
The sample of livestock professionals in the valley is very representative, and
we have used triangulation to cross dierent data and reinforce the analysis,
which makes the results more reliable. Nevertheless, it remains possible that
unidentied cultural elements specic to this area could have inuenced the
interviews, despite our coordination with Corsican scientists.
In the thematic analysis, the rating index is based on a condensed measure
of several elements: this gives a transversal view of knowledge and practices.
Interpretations can be dicult and carry a risk of bias in the representation of
actual knowledge possessed. For example, someone could be knowledgeable
about tick biology (life cycle, spread) but lack knowledge of risks for tick-
borne human and animal diseases and human prevention practices.
However, being aware of this, we cross-referenced the analysis to avoid
misinterpretation. In any subsequent scientic use of this analysis, attention
must be paid to these limits and the need to adapt an index to dierent
4. Discussion
4.1. A risk underestimated by farmers in terms of local knowledge and
There is a link between the perception of tick-bite risk and the implementa-
tion of management practices. With respect to the incidence of ticks, the
results attest to a monitoring posture among participants. Although in gen-
eral, the participants do not have a high level of biological knowledge about
ticks and are not overly concerned about them, we can see from their various
discourses that they are attentive to the phenomenon. This attitude is con-
rmed by the analysis of the three methods. Many livestock farmers have
developed a predictive reasoning based on the presence of ticks (in what
quantity and at what time of the year) and according to climatic conditions
(winter and spring temperatures and spring rainfall) as can be seen in the
results of Kioko et al. (2015). Here we see the farmers’ use of contextualized or
situational knowledge (metis) previously described by Mutavi et al. (2018) as
it relates to their practices. During our initial interviews, farmers were not
surprised by the low density and late arrival of ticks after a particularly cool
and rainy spring. At the same time, some anticipated a sharp increase in early
summer due to the mild winter climate. Finally, others believed that the cold
snap that hit the area in mid-May must have decimated tick populations.
In contrary to the observations of Ricco and Vezzosi (2018), for the majority
of farmers interviewed, ticks are perceived as a low risk. The phenomenon is
seen as a normal and almost inseparable part of livestock farming. Since they
observe few visible health consequences in animals and consider the inci-
dence of tick-borne diseases in humans to be rare, they do not see ticks as
a problem for their personal health or for their livestock activities. Among the
study’s sheep and cattle farmers over 45 years of age, there is even a tendency
to see lower risks of tick-bite today than in the past. They explain this
phenomenon by the widespread use of chemical treatments in livestock
farming: a practice nanced and generalized in the early 2000s as part of
the prevention against bluetongue. This use of chemical treatments as
a livestock health management practice was introduced at the same time
as an overall transformation of livestock systems. This transformation was
symbolized by the decline of transhumant pastoralism, in which the ascent to
the summer pastures was seen as the traditional way of managing parasites
in livestock farming. The use of chemical treatments has replaced this practice
for new farmers as well as for those who no longer practice transhumance.
The case of equestrian centres presents an exception. There seems to be
a close link between the way tick-bite risk is perceived and the professional
activity of the study’s participants. For equestrian centres, ticks represent
a particularly signicant nancial impact because of the cost of preventative
treatment. There are also the consequences of the aected animals’ health
(which can limit their usefulness), the extra working time involved, and a risk
to human health (although to a much lesser degree). The fact that these
centres are also dependent on tourism can add to the nancial and health
concerns of tick-bite risk.
All of these elements raise questions about information access and sharing
between an exposed public and the scientic and medical world. In France, there
is no readily available centre of knowledge specic to information about ticks.
Some information can be found on the internet, but this source was not identied
by the farmers. In this respect, the veterinarians could be major actors: in France,
they are the local source for livestock disease prevention strategy. But, in the
results, they are only rarely mentioned by farmers as a direct source of informa-
tion, their contribution often appeared to be limited to the act of providing
a prescription. As also seen in the results of a study on pig diseases in Corsica
(Calba et al. 2015), this type of relationship without dialogue has a direct impact
on farmers’ practices. They might apply the veterinarian’s instructions without
being fully aware of the consequences. Chemical treatments, which are aimed at
the global prevention of external parasites, might be used without any real
knowledge of their eects. A lack of information and awareness leaves consider-
able latitude for farmers to interpret the rationale and use of these products.
As discussed by Enticott (2008, 2012) and Coquil et al. (2018), top-down
interventions based on generic knowledge are not adapted to local particularities
(ecological processes, micro-climates, etc.) or to the individual needs of farmers.
These types of interventions independently dene the choice to use these
treatments without precise knowledge about the products used or the pest
controlled, or on the modalities of when and how often they should be applied.
This tends to increase the phenomenon of autonomization or individualization of
management practices. The relatively weak status of veterinary advice as seen in
this study provides a good example of the limits of a scientic knowledge-based
approach (techne) in a context dominated by an experiential knowledge-based
(metis) perspective, represented here by the local knowledge and practices of
farmers (Mutavi, Aarts, Van Paassen, Heitkönig, Wieland 2018).
4.2. The need for a local approach to manage risks and share
Despite limited interaction with veterinarians as a source of information, our
results show that livestock farmers and equestrian centres in the Tavignano
Valley, clearly constitute a typical sentinel population for tick surveillance,
specically in terms of their non-academic and situational knowledge
(Toolini, Jeuroy, Mischler, Pernel, Prost 2017). These individuals notice
the presence of dierent varieties of ticks according to both their appearance
and their behaviour (ability to move, time of year). Most of the farmers seem
to have observed the more or less recent appearance of Hyalomma
Marginatum, and some have clearly identied it. They are actually confronted
with this tick, even if they have not yet been given any specic information
about it. They have access in the eld to precise information on the presence
and evolution of ticks, information that is not always available to scientists.
These “local experts” (Callon, Lascoumes, Barthe 2001; Davis and Wagner,
2003) therefore have the ability to detect the small but essential signals and
sound the alert that measures are needed for the prevention of emerging
diseases such as CCHF.
It would seem necessary to think of tick management in terms of both
surveillance and prevention, and as a collaborative approach built at the local
level (Dernat and Johany, 2019b). It is imperative to enrol farmers, equestrian
centres and other actors as a “sentinel population”, but also to share their local
knowledge and confront them with scientic knowledge (Thomas, Riley, Spees
2020). It is also about reaching out to people who are usually excluded from
the debate (Coudel et al. 2017) those found outside the traditional circle of
political or administrative representatives. Taylor and De Loë (2012) have
shown that scientists’ and public managers’ “epistemological anxiety” about
local knowledge was a signicant barrier to its eective use in decision-
making. Moreover, the owners of local knowledge (such as farmers) do not
always feel concerned, legitimate or even competent to participate in the
governance of their sector (Sterling et al. 2017). As seen in the results of
Mutavi et al. (2018), hybridization would make it possible for them to share
experiences and express feedback on their practices and observations, in
conjunction with experts. The experts could transmit their academic knowl-
edge and guarantee a certain expertise in the discussions by validating or
invalidating certain information or beliefs. This hybridization incorporates the
benets of both forms of knowledge rather than using knowledge selectively
without contextual meaning for users (Lin et Law, 2014). Similarly, maps like
the one created from all the representations of the study sample, could
interest scientists and be a reference point on the presence of ticks in the
valley. It would also be interesting for locals to have access to direct input from
epidemiologists, doctors or veterinarians on tick-related issues: actual risks for
animals and humans, information on the ticks’ life cycles, the tick population’s
evolution over time. This would enable exchanges on the issues pertinent to
the dynamics of both livestock farming and tourism in the Tavignano valley.
With these interactions, local actors could certainly become more aware of
the risks, but they could also learn about management practices and how to
take greater responsibility for the eective use of chemical treatments.
Formalization through a living lab might be a particularly suitable modality.
It would allow the organization of the described interactions while enhancing
the knowledge of each person. For example, in eastern France there is a living
lab initiative on ticks conducted by researchers (CiTIQUE 2019). Currently, this
initiative is focused on involving the general public and environmental
facilitators to promote the sharing of scientic and local knowledge on ticks.
Our study shows that extending this type of initiative to livestock farmers in
a context such as Corsica would be benecial for both research and local
livestock farming.
5. Conclusion
This study highlights the importance of questioning the relevance of tradi-
tional top-down knowledge transfer as an operating mode for the manage-
ment of ticks and tick-borne diseases. The current situation in the Tavignano
Valley reveals a weak level of scientic knowledge among livestock farmers
and a high level of risk-prone practices. However, there is an opportunity in
terms of their experience and local knowledge: they can become sentinels.
This could be accomplished by incorporating their knowledge in hybridiza-
tion strategies that might be inspired by the responses to other health issues,
such as the mobilization of living labs.
The authors are grateful to the individuals who gave generously of their time and
shared their knowledge and experiences through the interviews. The authors wish to
thank Ben Boswell for his precious assistance in nal editing.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
The implementation of interviews among French citizens did not require a specic
Ethics review process at the moment of the research. Participation of farmers to the
interviews was done on a voluntary basis after phone call contact. Participants were
informed in advance about details of how the data would be used, assuring anonymity,
and in accordance with French regulations at the time of data collection, each partici-
pant signed a consent form authorizing the collection and secure storage of their data.
This work was supported by research project Climatick (leaders: Karine Chalvet-
Monfray & Laurence Vial) funded by the metaprogram ACCAF from INRAE.
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Rating index of each theme in the thematic analysis.
Perception of the risk of ticks and tick-borne diseases for professional activity:
1: a perception of no risk.
2: a perception of low risk.
3: a perception of moderate risk.
4: a perception of high risk.
5: ticks are a major concern.
Knowledge about risks due to tick-borne diseases:
1: knowledge limited to the risk of allergic reactions or skin rashes (erythema).
2: knowledge about the risk of human diseases transmitted by ticks-bites (e.g.
3: knowledge about the risk of tick-borne diseases for both humans and animals.
4: knowledge about the risk of diseases for humans and animals and of how
diseases spread (hosts).
5: knowledge about tick biology (life cycle, spread), the risk of tick-borne human
and animal diseases and human prevention practices.
Management practices:
1: Lack of health management practices regarding ticks (purging is a management
practice against internal parasites).
2: Moving herds to summer pastures believed to be a management practice.
3: Use of chemical treatments on a case-by-case basis depending on the presence of
ticks, rashes or other health problems.
4: Use of chemical treatments on an annual and systematic basis (1 or 2 treatments
5: Intensive and systematic use of chemical treatments for several months of
the year (more than 2 treatments).
Personal experience with tick bites:
1: No personal experience of tick bites.
2: Heard of experiences of tick bites with health consequences (illness and/or
3: Personal experience of tick bites without health consequences.
4: Personal experience of tick biting + heard of experiences of tick biting with health
consequences (illness and/or hospitalisation).
5: Personal experience of tick bites with health consequences (illness and/or
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Corsica is a mountainous French island in the north‐west of the Mediterranean Sea presenting a large diversity of natural environments where many interactions between humans, domestic animals and wild fauna occur. Despite this favourable context, tick‐borne pathogens (TBPs) have not systematically been investigated. In this study, a large number of TBPs were screened in ticks collected over a period of one year from domestic and wild hosts in Corsica. More than 1,500 ticks belonging to nine species and five genera (Rhipicephalus, Hyalomma, Dermacentor, Ixodes and Haemaphysalis) were analysed individually or pooled (by species, gender, host and locality). A real‐time microfluidic PCR was used for high‐throughput screening of TBP DNA. This advanced methodology enabled the simultaneous detection of 29 bacterial and 12 parasitic species (including Borrelia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, Bartonella, Candidatus Neoehrlichia, Coxiella, Francisella, Babesia and Theileria). The Crimean‐Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus was investigated individually in tick species known to be vectors or carriers of this virus. In almost half of the tick pools (48%), DNA from at least one pathogen was detected and eleven species of TBPs from six genera were reported. TBPs were found in ticks from all collected hosts and were present in more than 80% of the investigated area. The detection of DNA of certain species confirmed the previous identification of these pathogens in Corsica, such as Rickettsia aeschlimannii (23% of pools), Rickettsia slovaca (5%), Anaplasma marginale (4%) and Theileria equi (0.4%), but most TBP DNA identified had not previously been reported in Corsican ticks. This included Anaplasma phagocytophilum (16%), Rickettsia helvetica (1%), Borrelia afzelii (0.7%), Borrelia miyamotoi (1%), Bartonella henselae (2%), Babesia bigemina (2%) and Babesia ovis (0.5%). The high tick infection rate and the diversity of TBPs reported in this study highlight the probable role of animals as reservoir hosts of zoonotic pathogens and human exposure to TBPs in Corsica.
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a severe form of hemorrhagic fever caused by a virus of the genus Nairovirus. The amplifying hosts are various mammal species that remain asymptomatic. Humans are infected by tick bites or contact with animal blood. CCHF has a broad geographic distribution and is endemic in Africa, Asia (in particular the Middle East) and South East Europe. This area has expanded in recent years with two indigenous cases reported in Spain in 2016 and 2018. The incubation period is short with the onset of symptoms in generally less than a week. The initial symptoms are common to other infectious syndromes with fever, headache, myalgia and gastrointestinal symptoms. The hemorrhagic syndrome occurs during a second phase with sometimes major bleeding in and from the mucous membranes and the skin. Strict barrier precautionary measures are required to prevent secondary and nosocomial spread. CCHF may be documented by PCR detection of the virus genome during the first days after the onset of illness, and then by serological testing for IgM antibodies as from the 2nd week after infection. Patient management is mainly based on supportive care. Despite a few encouraging retrospective reports, there is no confirmed evidence that supports the use of ribavirin for curative treatment. Nevertheless, the World Health Organization continues to recommend the use of ribavirin to treat CCHF, considering the limited medical risk related to short-term treatment. The prescription of ribavirin should however be encouraged post-exposure for medical professionals, to prevent secondary infection.
This paper examines the formation of social groups in the first 3 months following a significant biosecurity incursion, extending our understanding of a social system in the context of an ongoing emergency response. The broader implications of social change and coping responses post-incursion are a relevant and useful discussion worldwide. Farmers (N = 25) were recruited from three dominant banana-growing regions in North Queensland, Australia. Face-to-face interviews were conducted using a semi-structured format. Key topics covered included perceptions of Panama Tropical Race 4 (TR4), on-farm biosecurity activities, social influences and comparisons, and personal stress. This qualitative approach uses well-known social psychological constructs to help understand and frame farmers’ social behaviours post-incursion. TR4 was perceived as a significant threat by participants; yet, perceptions of vulnerability to TR4 and biosecurity engagement varied. Two dominant social groupings emerged from the data. Active adopters were characterised as proactive and innovative growers, prioritising individual farm protection for the benefit of the broader industry. There was a high level of social support, trust and efficacy, facilitating an adaptive coping style. Passive adopters implemented straightforward and less costly biosecurity measures on farm but were not willing to commit to greater financial or time investments. They expressed an overall wariness towards the biosecurity management process and little trust in authorities. A small sub-group of passive adopters also displayed clear maladaptive coping characteristics (e.g. denial, helplessness) towards TR4, believing that biosecurity action at this point was futile. Proximity to TR4-affected property emerged as having an interactional effect on biosecurity uptake and risk perception. Here, we show for the first time, in situ, the complex social environment post-incursion, indicative of high stress and high uncertainty. Findings can be used on-ground to improve extension engagement and risk communication with growers post-incursion, being mindful there exists a range of coping styles and social influences. © 2018, INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature.