With tick season in full swing, and May being “Lyme Disease Awareness Month,” it’s incredibly important to prepare now against Lyme disease, a widespread, yet preventable illness.
As it starts to get warmer, the risk of the tick-borne illness, which is actually an acute inflammatory bacterial infection, intensifies.
“Summer 2017 is going to be a horrendous tick season on the East End,” noted Brian Kelly, tick control expert and owner of East End Tick & Mosquito Control. “This past fall was a monumental season for acorns, by sheer numbers, and unknown to many, it is a tell-tale sign that ticks and Lyme disease will boom this year. Acorns are a food source for animals such as squirrels, deer and mice. The abundance of food means a population explosion of small mammals is looming and therefore, a dramatic increase in crawling, questing ticks.”
Each year there are nearly 30,000 reported cases of Lyme disease in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but it’s estimated that 300,000 people are diagnosed annually. Unfortunately for those living on the East End of Long Island, studies have shown that 50 percent of local ticks carry the disease and 70 percent of all people who are diagnosed with Lyme disease are infected in their own yard.
During the warmer months, most Lyme disease cases are caused by bites from immature ticks called nymphs, who are less than 2 mm, similar in size to a poppy seed, making them incredibly difficult to spot. In addition to being hard to see, their bites are painless and they usually attach to hard-to-see areas of the body like the groin, armpits and scalp.
Lyme disease has been nicknamed “The Great Imitator” due to the fact that its symptoms are comparable to that of other diseases, affecting any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart, which can sometimes make diagnosing the disease challenging.
Kelly stresses that “prevention is better than a cure,” so to help ensure the community has a healthy and fun summer season, he has shared a few tips:
1. Remember, ticks can be found anywhere. It’s important to use repellent when going outdoors and to check for ticks often.
2. Keep pets confined to your landscaped lawn and never allow them to enter the woods or woods edge.
3. Implement a professional rodent control program around your home to reduce the number of ticks on your property.
4. Remind kids of the dangers of going into the woods and uncharted territory. Teach them how to check themselves, too.
5. Keep a tick removal kit ready so you are well-prepared if you do come across an embedded tick.
6. Keep your grass cut short and don’t over-water your plants and shrubs. Ticks are attracted to long grass and cool damp areas.
7. Ivy and other sorts of ground cover are tick hot spots and should be avoided.
8. Spray monthly from April through October to control your property.
In the event of a tick bite, Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center is ready to assist. The Resource Center offers free Tick Removal Kits that feature everything you need to safely remove an attached tick, and if you have a question about ticks and tick-borne disease, their Help Line (631-726-TICK), which is manned by a Registered Nurse, is open Monday through Friday.
Since all ages are at risk, the Hospital has teamed up with East End Tick and Mosquito Control for a program that educates the younger generation about prevention. “The TickWise program, developed in conjunction with April Boitano, MSED, with support from Brian Kelly’s East End Tick and Mosquito Control, uses a kid-friendly puppet show and hands-on visuals to educate even the youngest children about tick safety,” noted Karen C. Wulffraat, Administrative Director, Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center. “Children are most at risk for contracting Lyme and tick disease due to their propensity for outdoor play and participation in sports activities.”
The kid-friendly educational programming has been well received by students. “By educating children in schools and at summer camps we not only reach them, but also their parents. We’ve found that kids find the insects fascinating and are totally engaged with looking at them under magnification,” Wulffraat. “They’re taught to enlist Mom and Dad’s help to do daily ‘tick checks’ to make sure ticks are removed before they have a chance to transmit disease.”
For those concerned about Lyme disease, the Resource Center is presenting several public educational events for adults throughout the spring and summer. The full schedule can be found here: www.southamptonhospital.org.
Additionally, the Resource Center will show families how to train your eyes to be “tick wise” during Peconic Family Fun Day at Children’s Museum of the East End (376 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton) on Saturday, May 6 at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.cmee.org.
The 2nd annual Fundraiser in support of Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center will be held on Tuesday, May 23 at The American Hotel (45 Main Street, Sag Harbor), from 5 to 8 p.m.
For more information about East End Tick & Mosquito Control, visit tickcontrol.com. For more information about Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center, visit www.southamptonhospital.org.