This is a health crisis. We’re talking, of course about tick borne illnesses on the East End of Long Island — an area that is virtually ground zero for what may just be the largest epidemic in this country during our lifetime, except, perhaps for AIDS.
And as far as we’re concerned, not nearly enough is being done about it.
Think about it, is there anyone out here who doesn’t know someone who has had a tick borne illness or had one themselves?
These come with a variety of names, Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, babesiosis or anaplasmosis via any number of species of eight legged vermin — deer ticks, lone star ticks, dog ticks.
They are vicious diseases that, once inside a human host, can often morph, hide and manifest themselves in any number of unpleasant ways affecting different parts of the body in any number of ways.
The nightmare grows worse when you consider the fact there is a huge amount of debate over how these diseases should be treated based on when (or if) they are diagnosed and in some cases, if they even exist at all.
This is no way to live. And it certainly can’t be good for the reputation or long term property values of the East End.
Let’s start with what we all know for sure. If there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s the deer, and the fact there are far too many of them out here. It’s not like local municipalities aren’t doing their best trying to get a handle on this situation. From conducting aerial deer surveys to making recommendations on culling of herds or use of 4-poster devices to deliver tickicide, real efforts are being made on the East End to reduce the number of ticks via the number of deer that transport them.
While we applaud local efforts to manage the ticks through the deer population, it’s just not enough and we fear individual efforts by individual municipalities will do little to ultimately solve the problem, given the fact that deer are big animals that can cover a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time.
Town borders may work when it comes to beach permitting, but they are hardly effective in keeping wild animals from visiting neighboring municipalities that may have a far different approach to limiting their presence.
Which is why we’re calling for a regional approach to deer and, in turn, tick management. If there’s one thing we learned from working on our series of stories on tick borne diseases this week, it’s that there are serious gaps in our knowledge of the situation — including specific details on the actual numbers of ticks we’re dealing with, how those populations have changed in the last 20 years or more, the number of cases of specific tick borne diseases across the five East End towns and how much money is spent on healthcare related to those illnesses, as well as how much it costs employers who lose employees while they are ill with these diseases.
We hope our elected officials recognize this as a public health crisis. Now it’s time for agencies to begin assembling the relevant information needed to create a regional health care and environmental care program to deal with it. This is the sort of information that should be known, easily accessible and shared across the region and beyond.
Which is why we would like to see the five East End towns working in a comprehensive way to share their methods, concerns and what they’ve come to learn in the battle against this epidemic.
It would be nice to see the county or state take this on, and we’d be happy to push for that, though we fear budget constraints currently make that possibility unrealistic. So, perhaps we need to go a little further up the food chain and seek out help at the federal level. Say, the CDC or some other federal agency which could get involved and put together a comprehensive report and approach on tick borne illnesses and how to battle them. After all, this is an agency that already has an animal disease research facility out here — one that is no doubt well acquainted with Lyme disease, among others (and we’ll leave it at that).
The fact is, we already know this is a serious problem. It’s time someone other than East End residents started taking it seriously. What we don’t know is how we are going to solve it— but one thing’s for certain — it’s time to pull out the big guns.