Tag Archive | "Lone Star tick"

East End Experiences Lone Star Menace

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The distinctively marked lone star tick. Photo from www.sciencedaily.com

The distinctively marked lone star tick. Photo from www.sciencedaily.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An increase in the number of lone star ticks poses a threat.

By Sam Mason-Jones

The summer of 2014 has witnessed a rise in the transmission of tick-borne diseases, which has coincided with the prevalence of aggressive lone star ticks. It continues a trend which has seen a 126 percent increase in cases of ehrlichiosis, a diseased caused solely by lone star ticks, in the state of New York since 2010.

Ticks have posed a long-standing problem to the people of Long Island. The East End, in particular, has suffered, with the vast majority of its residents having experienced ticks- whether through the occasional bite or by contracting one of the many tick-borne diseases, the most common being Lyme disease.

The first months of this summer, though, have seen a distinct rise in public wariness and worry about the dangers spawned by these belligerent arachnids. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. noted,  “The extent and severity of the tick-borne disease cases on the East End has escalated to the point of a public health crisis.”

Reported cases of Lyme disease in New York state have risen from 5,589 in 2010 to 6,816 in 2013, with the incidence rates of other tick-borne diseases babesiosis and anaplasmosis both doubling in the same time frame.

This mood of raised awareness has been reflected in the decision taken by State Senator Ken LaValle to combat the problem head on. As such, it was reported earlier this month that Senator LaValle had secured $150,000 of state funding specifically for the purpose of fighting tick-borne disease in the East End.

Speaking to this end, Senator LaValle said, “With the high incidence of these tick-borne illnesses on the East End, we need to work to eradicate the diseases and end the transmission to individuals. I look forward to working with the towns and villages to monitor the planned initiatives and the results so we can better develop a long-term effective tick management strategy.”

Gerald T. Simons of Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Born Disease Resource Center explained the surge in cases of tick-borne diseases, and the resultant precautions come as a result of the recent numeral escalation of the particularly malevolent lone star tick.

“Five or six years ago, we would only see a patient with a lone star tick bite on a very rare occasion,” said Mr. Simons, “but now it seems to be the predominant type that we see people being bitten by.”

The amblyomma americanum, or lone star tick, is a species of tick that is easily identifiable by the distinctive white spot found on its back. Found most commonly in wooded areas, particularly in forests with thick underbrush or large trees, it is indigenous to much of the US, with distribution ranging from Texas to Iowa in the Midwest, and east to the coast where they can survive as far north as Maine.

Though the lone star ticks only transmit Lyme disease in extremely rare cases, they often carry the harmful ehrlichia bacteria. Ehrlichia, when transmitted to humans, can produce serious diseases like ehrlichiosis and tularemia.

Unlike Lyme disease, which can lay dormant for weeks without producing any notable symptoms, ehrlichia tends to bring out reasonably obvious symptoms within 48 hours of an infectious tick bite. These symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, muscle pains, swollen glands and a circular rash, not dissimilar from that brought out by Lyme.

The early arrival of these symptoms often aid the swift diagnosis of diseases caused by the ehrlichia bacteria, and they can therefore be effectively treated with antibiotics. However the lone star tick also causes another, more devastating malady.

Recently there has been a number of cases in which lone star tick bites have caused meat allergies, with victims instilled with an unprecedented and total aversion to red meat. The breaching of this allergy has resulted in hives, swelling and breathing problems, with full anaphylactic shock being brought on in some cases.

This problem is the result of a sugar called alpha-gal being passed from the lone star tick to its human host, who’s immune system detects it as an invader and builds up antibodies against it. Therefore, when the alpha-gal present in red meats like beef, pork and venison comes into contact with the body, the antibodies do what they can to keep out what they believe to be harmful invaders, where the alpha-gal would have previously been broken down by the stomach.

The rising wariness of the lone star tick has been accentuated by its reputation as particularly aggressive, seeming to be more intent on latching on to a host.

“Unlike a deer tick, which will just sit on some grass and wait for a mammal to pass, the lone star tick is sensitive to the carbon dioxide given off by people, and will actively pursue that.” said Mr. Simons. “It is more than capable, for example, of moving across a yard to where it knows people are.”

Mr. Simons went on to explain that the harsher winters experienced by the east coast in recent years had actually exacerbated this problem.

“People are always asking, ‘If we have such a long, cold winter, how are these ticks surviving?’” he added. “And though we’ve seen a slight decrease in the number of tick bites being reported over the winter, the ticks that do survive are the most infectious, the most virulent, and the most angry.”

For more information about tick-borne diseases and prevention, contact the Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Southampton Hospital, either at (631) 726-TICK or through its website www.southamptonhospital.org/services/tick-borne-disease-resource-center.

North Haven Residents Call for Tick Abatement

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Josephine DeVincenzi used to be an avid birder, but now she avoids the woods in North Haven, fearful of contracting Lyme Disease for the fourth time.

She is by no means alone.

Virtually all of DeVincenzi’s neighbors have contracted Lyme Disease or another tick borne illness at least once, if not multiple times. Even worse, her partner Jan Scanlon developed a life-threatening allergy to meat and dairy after being bitten by a Lone Star tick. In the last eight years, Scanlon has been rushed to the hospital almost a dozen times as a result of the affliction, twice in anaphylactic shock.

Calling the impact tick borne illnesses are having on residents in North Haven — a known hot spot for ticks — a “public health crisis,” on Monday night DeVincenzi urged the North Haven Village Board to explore implementing a “4-Poster” program in the village.

“As you know, North Haven Village served as the control for the 4-Poster Study on Shelter Island that studied tick infestation,” said DeVincenzi. “After three years of study, they found a significant decline in the tick population — a 95-percent decline.”

“While there is no perfect solution to the problem,” she added, “I am here on behalf of myself and the North Haven Manor’s Home Owners Association to demand the village find the means to implement the 4-Poster Program and abate our tick infestation.”

PA210031According to Dan Gilrein of Cornell Cooperative Extension, which completed the 4-Poster study in Shelter Island in 2011, DeVincenzi is correct. The study did show tick populations could be controlled over time and significantly reduced using 4-Poster devices. The duel feeding stations are designed to apply the insecticide permethrin to the necks, head, ears and shoulders of deer which are forced to rub up against applicator rollers as they feed at the stations. The permethrin is then transferred to other parts of the body as the deer grooms itself.

According to Gilrein, Cornell Cooperative Extension completed the study to help the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) make an informed decision on whether the state should allow communities to use 4-Poster devices for tick abatement and to what extent.

Gilrein said earlier this year, the DEC did decide to allow permits for 4-Poster devices, but only in Nassau and Suffolk counties and not in upstate New York. The DEC does require a four-year study of deer ecology as well as the tick population in order to gain a permit.

Gilrein added that while 4-Poster systems can be erected on private properties they must be monitored by someone with training.

“It’s a new technology that people have to learn how to use successfully,” he said.

“We know this helps to control ticks and perhaps it is also raising awareness about the role of the deer population in relation to tick borne illnesses,” added Gilrein. “It has also highlighted the need for more information and the importance of personal protection.”

On Monday night, DeVincenzi said she believes the time for study has passed and that because of Cornell’s work there is proof that the 4-Poster program could have a real impact on the lives of people in North Haven.

“How many more people need to be impacted,” she asked. “How many more health care dollars will be spent treating the illness instead of eradicating or reducing the major source of the problem?”

“You are the officials we elected to safeguard our community and the people living in it,” DeVincenzi later added. “Myself and others believe you have fallen short of the objective. We have a Lyme Disease epidemic here and we need action now.”

Nodding his head as DeVincenzi spoke, North Haven Village Board Member George Butts said he has had Lyme Disease about seven times and it is a widespread problem.

“My husband has had it, my daughter had it,” added board member Diane Skilbred.

However, Skilbred noted she had read implementing a 4-Poster program would cost about $1 million.

“How much is it costing us now,” asked DeVincenzi. “We are spending millions on tests, treatments, on trying to protect ourselves, but it is haphazard. We have to have a comprehensive plan.”

DeVincenzi added that she believed residents in North Haven Village would happily pay a little more each year in taxes in order to be protected.

“Tell me what you need, how many petitions you need to get signed and I will do it,” she said.

Board member Jeff Sander said he believed this was a valid concern and something the board should research, immediately, with DeVincenzi’s help.

“Let’s look at some data,” he said.

DeVincenzi said she would also seek to bring an expert on 4-Poster devices to the board’s August 7 meeting.

“I have given up going into the woods and enjoying nature,” she said. “I have just given it up.”

Photos courtesy of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.