It’s no secret. And it’s certainly no surprise. Tick borne illnesses occur at shocking levels here on the East End. It started decades ago with Lyme disease, but that’s hardly where it has ended. We have Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and any other number of diseases that can be contracted from those little eight legged vermin.
Think about it, how many people do you know who have contracted a disease from a tick bite? The easier question (and lower number) just might be how many people do you know who haven’t had such a disease.
But ironically, though Suffolk County has a vector control program, it has traditionally been focused on mosquito borne illness — things like West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
These are dangerous illnesses to be sure, but the numbers of incidences hardly approach that of tick borne diseases. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 1,000 cases of West Nile Virus annually. Lyme disease? Now you’re looking at 300,000 new cases yearly.
The numbers are staggering. Which is why County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has introduced legislation to expand the county’s role in combating tick-borne illnesses. His legislation is simply this: it requires the division of Suffolk County Vector Control to submit a yearly plan to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
The annual budget for the division of Vector Control is $2.5 million. While we don’t want them to abandon their efforts against mosquitoes, we heartily agree with Schneiderman that tick control should definitely become part of the equation.
In fact, this is an ideal time to get the county involved. With places like North Haven considering 4-poster and culling to reduce the deer herd — a primary host — and East Hampton also looking at ways to reduce their deer population, coming up with a comprehensive approach to reducing tick numbers across the East End is a no brainer. And the county is perhaps the municipality in the best position to do it.