Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman introduced legislation late last week to expand the county’s role in combating tick-borne illnesses. The legislation 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.
Suffolk County controls the spread of insect-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis through the division of vector control. To date, the division has focused its attention on mosquito-borne illnesses, despite the fact it was specifically created to focus on both mosquito and tick-borne illnesses. The annual budget for the division of Vector Control is $2.5 million.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 300,000 yearly cases of Lyme disease. There are 1,000 cases of West Nile per year making it 300 times more likely that a Suffolk County resident will contract Lyme disease than West Nile virus.
“The county has done a good job preventing West Nile, but needs to step up efforts to reduce Lyme disease,” said Legislator Schneiderman.
Under Schneiderman’s legislation, the yearly Suffolk County Vector Control plan would include a section on steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses. This section shall include the work to be done, methods to be employed and methodologies to determine the effectiveness of the program.
“Lyme disease is an epidemic on the East End of Long Island. Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor to this legislation. “Suffolk County needs to play an active role to control this growing health problem.”
“Towns and villages are struggling to develop plans to respond to the growing Lyme disease cases,” said Schneiderman. “The county should be playing a leadership role in Lyme disease prevention.”
Areas like Shelter Island and North Haven have been exploring the 4-Poster system, a passive feeding station designed to control ticks that utilize white-tailed deer as a host. The device uses 4 rollers to apply insecticides directly to feeding deer.
There are multiple types of tick-borne illnesses in Suffolk County including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis. In the late 20th century, Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, was recognized as an important emerging infection.
Of the total vector borne illnesses found in the United States, Lyme disease is by far the most prominent. It accounts for more than 95 percent of vector-borne illness cases.
“The County Health Department needs to develop a comprehensive approach to reducing Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses, said Schneiderman. “A primary function of government is to protect the health and welfare of residents of Suffolk County. It is time for Suffolk County to take a leadership role in preventing Lyme disease.”