Tag Archive | "tick-borne diseases"

Noyac Hosts Last Tick Talk of the Season

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Jerry Simons discussed tick-borne disease diagnosis and prevention during a symposium at the November meeting of the Noyac Civic Council. 

By Mara Certic

As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, East Enders sometimes fall into a false sense of security, believing tick season is over for another cold winter. But with the ever-increasing number of tick-borne diseases and infections, medical professionals emphasize the importance of remaining vigilant against the virulent arachnids all year long.

In response to the growing number of infections, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle convened a tick-borne disease task force last year to search for solutions to the problem, which is particularly prevalent on the East End. An advisory panel for Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center has come up with a multi-pronged mission to help reduce the number of tick-borne diseases and infections on Long Island and around the world.

In addition to facilitating treatment and educating medical professions about the various diseases carried by ticks, the panel has been charged with educating the public at several informative medical symposiums.

Jerry Simons, a physician’s assistant at East Hampton Urgent Care, gave the last such presentation of the year, on November 12 at the monthly meeting of the Noyac Civic Council.

Mr. Simons has been treating Lyme disease for almost 20 years.

“I saw my first Lyme disease patient in 1995,” he said at the meeting. Although the disease is named after a town in Connecticut, a lot of progress and discoveries made on Lyme disease happened out here on the East End, he said. “So it makes sense for the tick center to re-blossom here,” he added.

One of the difficulties of treating Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, Mr. Simons said, is figuring out what the exact strain of the disease is. Whereas people in the past have been told to look out for bull’s eye rashes, Mr. Simons noted that 30 to 50 percent of people with Lyme disease do not develop one.

“In 2014, like there are different types of flu germs or Epstein Barr, there are also different kinds of Lyme disease,” Mr. Simons said. Some of the literature says there are four different strains, whereas some claim there are as many as 12. According to Mr. Simons, those strains can then have up to four different subtypes of their own.

In addition to the many strains of Lyme, there are also diseases such as babesiosis, IA, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and, most recently, the Alpha-gal allergy to meat.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of checking for the right germ,” Mr. Simons said, suggesting that anyone with a worrisome tick bite should ask for the Tick-Borne Disease Panel 3 work up, which tests for many different strains and diseases.

“But what I need you to remember is it’s not just Lyme disease,” he added.

Several medical publications have recently suggested that the ticks with the highest rate of infection in the world are those within a 50-mile-radius of Shelter Island.

“If you were in North Dakota and got a tick bite it would be a different story,” he said. Mr. Simons advocates getting treated with antibiotics right away, adding that they can prevent further, more serious problems four, eight or 12 weeks down the line. Also, spending $20 or $30 on early antibiotics could save thousands of dollars on blood work.

One of his pet peeves, he said, is when patients find a tick on themselves and wait to have it removed by a professional.  “You need to remove it immediately,” Mr. Simons said. Once removed, the ticks themselves should be taken to a doctor’s office, where they can determine the type of tick, its sex and whether or not it’s swollen, he added.

Inspecting the offending tick is one of the ways doctors can quickly and more efficiently diagnose patients, he said.

The bite of the Lone Star tick larvae, for example, can cause the Alpha-gal meat allergy and also other diseases in some cases. When bitten by an infected Lone Star tick, the alpha gal polysugar gets into the body. Once the enzyme is in your body, eating fatty red meats can cause a delayed inflammatory reaction, similar to a bee sting, Mr. Simons explained.

Whereas for some, the Alpha-gal allergy affects them only when they consume red meat, others can have reactions to dryer sheets, cosmetics, even lanoline strips on razors.

Recent research has shown people with Alpha-gal have very low glutamine levels, Mr. Simons said. Glutamine is one of the most abundant naturally occurring nonessential amino acids.

“You’re hearing it here first,” Mr. Simons said, “the advice is to run—not walk—to the store and get a big thing of glutamine.”

High doses of glutamine combined with six months to a year without any sort of meat contact could perhaps reverse the effect of the allergy, he said.

“It’s like in the ’80s when we were trying to figure out AIDS and HIV—you’re living in history,” Mr. Simons said.

For more information about tick-borne diseases call 726-TICK, or visit tickencounter.org.

Home Prevention

While ticks are most active from May through July, they will remain active until the temperature drops below 32 degrees. While the pests can be hard to avoid, here are some ways to keep ticks away:

  • Mice carry the most infectious ticks, so removing leaf piles and brush and other rodent retreats will help keep dangerous ticks away from the house.
  • Damminix tick tubes can be used to kill ticks on rodents. The product is available online, but DIY-ers can create the products themselves by putting cotton balls soaked in permethrin into cardboard tubes in mouse-infested areas. The mice, in turn, collect the cotton balls for their nests and the permethrin kills the ticks on contact.
  • Ticks are very unlikely to cross a 3-foot-wide wood chip boundary, so putting one around a house can help keep them away.
  • Ticks of all species apparently hate the smell of lavender; so dryer sheets and sprays imbued with the scent can also repel them.
  • Diluted DEET should be sprayed on shoes once a month, to keep ticks away.
  • Natural repellents, such as Buzz-Away can be applied directly to the skin.
  • Experts suggest spraying yards or lawns once a month from April to November, as well. Organic sprays are available from East End Tick and Mosquito Control.
  • Applying permethrin to clothes will kill all ticks on contact. Clothes pre-treated with permethrin are also available.

Southampton Town Unveils Deer Management Plan

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By Mara Certic

Environmentalists, hunters and Southampton Town officials unveiled a deer protection and management plan at a town board work session last  week.

The town Department of Conservation and Environment and Department of Land Management worked with Longview Wildlife Partnership to draft the 28-page plan that was presented to the board on Thursday, November 6.

Longview Wildlife Partnership is a citizens group of hunters and deer preservation advocates who formed the organization last year in the wake of plans to have Federal Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services sharpshooters cull the deer herd on eastern Long Island.

“We’re trying to strike a balance between protection and management,” said Amy Pfeiffer, a planner with Southampton Town.

As a first step, the plan recommends the formation of a deer management advisory committee, which would include local elected officials, planners, hunters, farmers, environmentalists, preservationists and experts on tick-borne diseases.

The multi-pronged management plan recommends different ways of reducing deer herds, including hunting, sterilization and immuno-contraception plans, as well as suggestions for reducing the number of deer motor vehicle accidents and how to better educate the public about the animals.

One of the issues of deer management is the unreliability of deer census methodology. The shifting, moving nature of deer populations and large numbers of unrecorded deer deaths mean current methods still require further refinement, according to the study.

Southampton Town will work with local hunters through the Longview Wildlife Partnership to establish deer management units and possible additional hunting opportunities on town-owned land. The plan aims to provide three ways to  “legitimize the role that local hunters can play, especially where nuisance deer pose an issue,” it says.

The first is to increase the number of hunting opportunities and to manage hunter density, as long as safety measures and firearm and archery setbacks are followed.

The second would control the number of deer hunted each year by determining or changing hunting seasons, bag limits and also by designating the sex and age of deer taken. Bucks are often considered the more highly prized hunting trophy, but studies have shown restricting hunting to bucks only can in fact increase deer populations. Hunting does, on the other hand, could help to reduce the size of the herd.

Third, the plan suggests the issuance of deer management permits, which allow for larger deer harvest during regular hunting seasons.

A group called Hunters for Deer has purchased a large refrigeration unit for deer carcasses, in order to ensure the meat goes to good use. According to Ms. Pfeiffer, if hunters are called to someone’s property because of a deer nuisance issue, they can now keep the meat in their new refrigerator to safely store it until it is donated to one of several charitable organizations.

The town is also looking into sterilization and immuno-contraception programs in another effort to maintain deer populations. Both methods can be expensive, and immuno-contraception in deer is still evolving as a deer management tool and can only be carried out as part of a research program

“Immuno-contraception may be the only socially acceptable option in densely residentially developed areas and, therefore, may have some effectiveness as at least a short term solution in Southampton Town,” the plan reads.

The town also has looked into different geographical locations for 4-poster stations, which rub insecticide onto deer in an effort to mitigate tick-borne diseases in Southampton.

One of the more visible changes that could come to Southampton Town would be the installation of new, flashing deer crossing signs.

“This new sign would be lit and would be placed in an area that would be related to where we’re seeing deer motor vehicle accidents,” Ms. Pfeiffer said. Using police information about accidents and by studying deer patterns, the town has established 12 road areas where there are the highest numbers of deer-vehicle collisions.

Ms. Pfeiffer added that down the line, these signs could also have motion detectors, which would make the signs light up when deer are sensed nearby.

“It’s a really neat thing,” Ms. Pfeiffer added.

Panel Talks Ticks in Sag Harbor

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Deirdre the Tick greeted people arriving for a panel discussion sponsored by Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Center at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

A human sized deer tick named Deirdre, who would have given Godzilla a run for his money at the box office, stood at the foot of Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf Saturday morning, greeting the audience arriving at Bay Street Theater for “Tick-Borne Diseases: What You Should Know.”

After Deirdre hammed it up a bit for the cameras before the event, sponsored by Southampton Hospital’s Tick Borne Disease Center, things got serious.

Robert Chaloner, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer, said the hospital had launched the tick center earlier this year to provide information to the growing number of East Enders who have come down with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases such as babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.

“As public health people we believe the best way to combat disease is through education,” he said, noting that the goal of the center is to educate both the public and health practitioners.

Another goal, he said, is to provide the public with help to find they kind of medical services they need to cope with tick-borne diseases. To that end, Deborah Maile, a registered nurse, will be available by phone at (631) 726-TICK to answer questions, Mr. Chaloner said.

According to one of the panelists, Dr. Steven Schutzer, a physician and professor at Rutgers-NJ Medical School, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now estimates that there are more than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease a year, which he largely attributed to better reporting. Not long ago, he added, the estimate was perhaps 30,000. By comparison, there are about 54,000 reported cases of salmonella a year, 10,500 cases of tuberculosis and about 5,700 cases of West Nile virus.

Despite improvements in recognizing Lyme, Dr. Schutzer said better tests are needed and researchers are working to provide them. Because Lyme is a slow developing disease—it can take 12 weeks to create a measurable lab culture—it is essential that more blood tests are developed, he said.

Treatment has also lagged, said Dr. Benjamin Luft, a physician and professor at the Stony Brook School of Medicine.

“Since the late 1980s and 90s, we have not been 100 successful” in treating Lyme and “we are stymied as to how to go forward,” he said.

If Lyme is diagnosed and treated early, “it is cured in the vast majority of patients,” he said, while acknowledging that a small number of patients to not respond well to typical treatment, which, he said, is also common among other diseases.

“If I treat you early, there’s no problem. Virtually everyone gets cured,” he said. “If I wait a week, two, four, six weeks, or six months, all of a sudden the ability to treat effectively diminishes.”

He complained that insurance companies are shirking their responsibility in providing coverage, governments are failing to invest enough in research and drug manufacturers are unwilling to take the risk of developing new tests and drugs.

Coming up with a vaccine against Lyme has proven to be difficult, he added, because Lyme has so many different strains. Lyme disease in Connecticut is different than Lyme in New York “and that is just across the Sound.”

Dr. Erin McGintee of East Hampton addressed the growing concern about the Alpha-Gal meat allergy, which she called “midnight anaphylasis.” The allergy to fatty red meats is caused by the bite of the Lone Star tick. Typically patients will get bitten by a tick and a week or two later, they will develop a serious allergic reaction after consuming red meat that includes swelling, redness, hives, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and other symptoms. Often the symptoms appear late at night, typically after the sufferer has consumed red meat at dinner.

She said the allergy could be passed to humans by the bite of Lone Star tick larvae, the only tick larvae to feed on humans and which are often mistaken for chiggers, she said. Lone Star ticks, which were typically found only in the southeast, are now found in half the country.

Since 2011, Dr. McGintee said she has diagnosed 208 cases and now is diagnosing as many as three or four each week.

Physician assistant Jerry Simons focused on offering practical advice for avoiding ticks. Ticks hate the smell of lavender, he said, suggesting that East End residents use soaps and shampoos with that fragrance, spray their yards with insecticide and apply permethrin to their shoes. He also recommended using insect repellent when out in areas where ticks are commonplace. Homeowners should remove piles of leaves and brush from their property to limit nesting options for mice, and he also suggested getting rid of bird baths and bird feeders because birds can carry ticks as well. Mr. Simon added that ticks will typically not cross a 3-foot barrier of wood chips, so he suggested residents might want to ring their property with one.

“The days of having your dog sleep in your bed are really over,” he added, noting that pets often bring ticks into the house.

“Each time I listen to these lectures, I want to go home and wrap myself in Saran Wrap, douse myself with Deet and hid under a rock,” Mr. Chaloner said during the morning’s presentation, “but clearly that is no way to live.”

New Hunting Permits Proposed for North Haven

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By Mara Certic

Although reportedly overrun by deer and ticks, the North Haven Village Board is proposing a local law that would require all hunters in the village to acquire special permits.

The proposal comes several months after the New York State reduced the mandatory setbacks from residences for bow hunters from 500 feet to 150 feet.

“We wanted to exercise some control over that,” Mayor Jeff Sander said at the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, September 2.  “We wanted to make sure they had a track record with us,” he said.

Hunters must get a homeowner’s approval to hunt on their property. Apparently North Haven homeowners have already started receiving requests from hunters to take aim at deer on their land. “It’s also a cruelty issue—you want someone who’s really competent,” said Mr. Sander.

The proposed law states, “In all events any person authorized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation shall also be authorized by the village and no person shall discharge any bow and arrow or similar weapon except while carrying a permit issued by the Village of North Haven.”

“To hunt in North Haven, you have to be approved by North Haven,” Mr. Sander said. A public hearing on the new law will take place at next month’s meeting on Tuesday, October 7, at 5 p.m. at the North Haven Village Hall.

Mayor Sander also gave a deer management update during Tuesday’s meeting. “We are primarily focused on reducing the herd,” he said.

He added that the village has a challenge “to continue to aggressively hunt in the season.”

The village is also still considering surgical sterilization of deer, which East Hampton Village will take part in this winter. Sterilization is an expensive process, Mr. Sander said, and costs approximately $1,000 per deer. He intends to invite White Buffalo Inc., the organization which perform the sterilizations, to North Haven and said that local volunteers could help keep the cost down.

The village is working on determining the best sites for four-poster stations, which apply insecticide to deer as they feed. The village will deploy 10 of them in early April, he said.

Trustee Thomas J. Schiavoni has been looking into Lyme disease throughout the village and will begin to do “tick drags” in the Autumn in order to measure the tick-density. Mr. Schiavoni said he has been in touch with Senator Kenneth P. LaValle’s office, to see if the state might be able to measure how many of the ticks are infected with diseases.

Mr. Schiavoni also announced the Southampton Hospital Tick Resource Center will hold an informational presentation at Bay Street Theater at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 20.

Tick-Borne Disease Task Force Makes Recommendations

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 By Mara Certic

A report issued last week by the Senate Majority Coalition Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases calls for the formation of a State Department of Health action plan in order to reduce the number of infections and increase detection, diagnosis and treatment. The task force was brought together in October to address the rising concerns about the spread of tick-borne diseases in New York State and included Senator Ken LaValle among its members.

According to the Department of Health, more than 95,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in the state since 1986.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease, but diagnoses of babesiosis and anaplasmosis have increased in recent years as well, the task force found. Suffolk County has the third highest number of cases reported each year in the state.

“We have had nine deaths from Lyme disease or tick-borne diseases [in New York State],” Senator LaValle said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “We think that this needs to be taken more seriously.”

The report states that one of the main concerns when it comes to controlling the tick-borne diseases is that few of the cases are reported. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, only about 10 percent of cases of Lyme disease are actually reported.

The task force’s report suggested several educational initiatives the state could undertake that would encourage New Yorkers to report Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. A County Learning Collaborative has been suggested to encourage conversations of between counties that have long been troubled by ticks and those that have only recently seen outbreaks of these diseases.

The task force also suggested a general statewide educational campaign, as well as improving continuing medical and veterinary education about the topic.

This year, for the first time, the state Senate has secured funding in the state budget exclusively for managing tick-borne diseases. “For the first time, we’ve got some money and we’re going to be a pilot for the state with the 4-poster program,” Senator LaValle said. The 4-Poster systems work by attracting deer with food, and then applying the insecticide permethrin to the animals when they approach to feed.

Installation of these devices on Shelter Island and in North Haven will take place “A.s.a.p.,” the senator said. “We believe it works. We want to get information that we can share statewide.”

North Haven is included because “it’s small enough so we think we can do a good job in putting them there,” said Senator LaValle.

A re-evaluation of diagnostic testing has also been recommended, as has a review of medical insurance to minimize coverage limitations regarding tick-borne diseases.

The Senate has also taken legislative steps to deal with this problem; one piece of legislation, which has passed in both houses, ensures that no physician will be brought up on charges of misconduct based upon their recommendation of a treatment that is not universally accepted by the medical community.

“There have been some physicians that have used long-term antibiotic to treat Lyme disease,” explained Senator LaValle. “This was not a mainstream use and so some physicians were brought up before the health committees for medical misconduct.”

Senator LaValle said the Senate passed a resolution on Friday, June 20, calling on the federal government to increase funding for Lyme and tick-borne diseases. “Our resolution talks about two things,” he said.  “Number one: we need the CDC to treat this as a more serious illness. Number two: we could use some help with funding.”

“Tick-borne Diseases: An Ounce of Prevention” at Guild Hall

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Dr. George Dempsey of East Hampton Walk-in Medical Care will speak at Guild Hall. Photo courtesy of Dr. Dempsey.

Dr. George Dempsey of East Hampton Walk-in Medical Care will speak at Guild Hall. Photo courtesy of Dr. Dempsey.

By Tessa Raebeck

As part of its new Table Talk series, on Sunday Guild Hall presents “Tick-borne Diseases: An Ounce of Prevention” with Dr. George Dempsey from East Hampton Walk-in Medical Care.

Dr. Dempsey will discuss the detection, prevention and treatments of tick-borne diseases, such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease. He will also speak about a new study that utilizes tissue samples for DNA testing.

Table Talk is a series of lectures and discussions on various topics with local experts, held every other Sunday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Boots Lamb Education Center at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street in East Hampton. The Golden Pear will provide coffee and light refreshments for the event.

Lectures are free and open to all, although a donation of $10 is appreciated.

For more information, call Guild Hall at 324-0806 and contact Michelle at extension 19 or Jennifer at extension 25.