Categorized | Express Editorials

Health Crisis

Posted on 02 August 2012

It is safe to assume that most people reading this editorial have either been afflicted with a tick borne illness or at the very least have a family member or friend who has suffered the consequences of a tick bite.

On the East End, we are well versed in the art of avoiding tick bites – wearing long pants for hikes on hot summer days, daily tick checks of ourselves and our children and sometimes simply avoiding the inviting grassy pastures and woodlands those insects thrive in. However, this spring and summer even those measures have proved insufficient for many. It seems as if almost on a daily basis we encounter residents recently diagnosed with Lyme disease or babesiosis or simply being advised by their doctors to begin a preventative round of antibiotics after a spate of bites.

While the whole of the East End is home to the deer and Lone Star tick, on the South Fork, North Haven Village has traditionally been a hot spot for these vectors, which is why it came as little surprise when North Haven resident Josephine DeVincenzi demanded the North Haven Village Board consider a tested method of tick abatement in an effort to protect its residents from continued health risk at the hands of nature.

North Haven Village already has in place a deer management program and being that deer are predominantly the host of choice for ticks they are to be praised for that. However, it is clearly not going far enough to address the growing tick population in North Haven with residents reporting multiple bites in a day, let alone a week, a month or a summer.

Next week, DeVincenzi will attend Tuesday night’s village board meeting in North Haven armed with an official from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to inform the board on a six-year East Coast study on the impact the 4-Poster Deer Treatment Device has had on communities afflicted with large tick populations.

The 4-Poster devices are at their root simply deer feeding stations, armed with rollers that strategically apply insecticide to the neck, head, ears and shoulders of deer tempted by the offer of an easy meal.

The devices’ effectiveness, which the board will review on Tuesday night, is undeniable.

A three-year study on Shelter Island proved a 95-percent reduction in tick populations, according to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. More so, studies conducted throughout the northeast and reviewed in reputable medical journals prove what was concluded during the Shelter Island study was not an anomaly, but a fact.

Implementing this kind of program can be costly, and we understand as municipalities are working diligently – we hope – to keep their annual budget at a minimum, the notion of a $1 million addition to an already small spending plan may be jarring. That being said, the cost burden in not just health care, but also in annual spraying and the construction of deer fences as mitigation measures far outweigh what could prove to be an effective solution to combat ticks in North Haven.

We also believe there are funding options outside of North Haven Village’s annual budget, including grant monies and asking residents if they would be willing to create a new taxing district to distribute the cost of this remedy, that could be explored.

At the end of the day, the reality is we learn each year how pervasive and debilitating tick borne illness can be, occasionally carrying long-term and potentially tragic consequences. If we have a tool to combat this growing public health epidemic, we believe it is time to take action.

Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy a hike on a summer’s day without fear of what is lurking in vast numbers in the grass around us?

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