2007-06-07 / News

Everyone can help in preventing tick-borne Lyme and other diseases

By Michaela Kennedy

Eradication of ticks and tickborne diseases was the theme of a garden gathering at a home on America Way last Saturday.

More than 50 people attended the informational seminar, held as part of a series of events for Tick Control Awareness Day on June 2.

Experts from the University of Rhode Island Center for Vector- Borne Disease educated participants in how to avoid ticks before becoming a victim of tick-related illnesses. Thomas Mather, entomology professor and director of the center, joined tick prevention officer Nate Miller to spread their campaign message, "Let's drive ticks and tick-borne diseases out of Rhode Island."

The experts noted that Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever were the two most commonly spread illnesses. They showed pictures of tick types and warned that the deer tick is the most dangerous carrier of disease in the area.

Jamestown has a moderate infestation of ticks, according to a map on display. Three out of four people locally have a chance of infection from ticks, and most of the encounters happen at home, according to Mather. He added that most people do not think about prevention at home, and most people do not mind taking risks in activities outside the home, such as on the golf course.

The specialists noted misconceptions about tick behavior. The pests are found on the ground in moist areas, such as woods, leaves, or near the edges of yards, not on lawns, Miller explained. Mather asked everyone to repeat, "Ticks don't jump, fly, or drop from trees."

Other display boards offered tips for prevention in three parts- protect yourself, protect your yard, and protect your pets. Sprays that contain permethrin, a poison that immediately kills ticks, are effective, Miller noted. DEET (diethyltoluamide) repels mosquitoes, but has no effect on ticks. "We need to convince you all that repellants are important," Miller said. Treating some old clothes with permethrin and spraying it directly on the body were suggested for personal protection.

Spraying the yard and cleaning up leaves are also effective, Miller continued. He introduced professionals from Bartlett Tree Service, who gave a spray demonstration.

Ed Pawlowski from Bayer talked about pet protection by using topical products designed for animals. He acknowledged that animals are at risk also, and treatments should be given even in cold weather. "The ticks we see in the winter are deer ticks," he added. "We need to be aggressive and persistent."

Some participants who were infected with Lyme disease from ticks stressed vigilance against the pests. Shirley Roos of Newport said she contracted Lyme disease 20 years ago, and had three reoccurrences of the malady over the years. Roos showed symptoms of body aches, but tested negative for the disease at first. "Do whatever you can to prevent it," she encouraged.

Islander Anne Lane also had Lyme disease, and suggested all to visit Jamestown Hardware Store. "Steve (Sherman) has all the products you need," she said.

After the meeting, members of the Conservation Commission voiced concerns about possible environmental effects of permethrin, including dangers to wildlife. The toxicity and time that the chemical would remain in the environment is dependant on the concentration of the application. "Given the significant number of small water courses and wetlands in Jamestown, all of which lead quickly into the bay, I am concerned that a general and volume application of this chemical as a lawn and forest margin insecticide could pose a significant environmental hazard," commissioner Mark Baker noted. While permethrin-treated clothes, spray-on repellants and pet protection products are important, more information is needed concerning the long-term effects of outside spraying, added Chris Powell, chairman of the commission.

Mather encouraged those present to make others aware of the campaign to get rid of ticks by spreading the word about protection. For more information on tick control, visit the Tick Encounter Resource Web site at www.tickencounter. org, or contact Mather at 874-2928.

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