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05/08/16 6:00am
05/08/2016 6:00 AM

Last summer, a homeowner in the Nassau Point section of Cutchogue did everything he could to protect himself from contracting a tick-borne illness. He sprayed his lawn with repellent three times and cleared his property of the brush and leaves so attractive to the bloodsucking arachnids.  READ

09/20/15 9:00am
09/20/2015 9:00 AM

There’s a renewed push in the U.S. Congress for legislation to strengthen the federal government’s activities on Lyme disease, endemic on the North Fork, Shelter Island and all over Long Island.

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07/13/15 6:36pm
07/13/2015 6:36 PM
Dr. Jenny Cabas-Vargas, a rheumatologist at Peconic Bay Medical Center, now treats patients at PBMC Health's new Tick-Related Disease Center, which opened in Manorville in May. (Credit: PBMC courtesy photos)

Dr. Jenny Cabas-Vargas, a rheumatologist at Peconic Bay Medical Center, now treats patients at PBMC Health’s new Tick-Related Disease Center, which opened in Manorville in May. (Credit: PBMC courtesy photos)

A new facility at PBMC Health’s Manorville campus is working to provide comprehensive care and educational materials to locals who have been bitten by deer ticks or already have Lyme disease.

The Tick-Related Disease Center, which opened its office in May at the Gertrude & Luis Feil Campus for Ambulatory Care on County Road 111, was launched in response to the increasing incidence of tick-borne illness on the North Fork  — something that is driven largely by the East End’s difficulty in managing its deer overpopulation.

(more…)

06/20/15 12:00pm
06/20/2015 12:00 PM
Lone star ticks at different stages of their life cycle, with recently hatched larvae at right. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control)

Lone star ticks at different stages of their life cycle, with recently hatched larvae at right. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control)

Find an area with a deer problem, and you’ll probably also find a tick problem. That holds especially true for the North Fork.

But how can Southold Town deal with tick-borne illnesses when managing the deer population has proven to be difficult and complicated?

Finding that answer is the goal of a new exploratory town tick committee now in the works.

This week, town officials started efforts to recruit qualified individuals for the committee, said Supervisor Scott Russell.

“What we’re proposing is almost like a working group,” he said. “We’re asking the committee to evaluate anything that has been implemented with regard to tick control.”

Suffolk County has its own countywide Tick Control Advisory Committee, but now Southold officials are hoping to form a more localized group.

In particular, Southold is so narrow and dense that it is difficult to meet certain tick-management regulations.

Mr. Russell said he recognizes “frustration” over the town’s previous attempts to control the local deer population — especially last year’s controversial deer cull.

“The more deer you have, the more ticks you have and the more tick-borne illness,” he said. “But obviously, since the deer issue is going to take some time … tick management is something we can start focusing on right away.”

Five to seven volunteers will comprise the anti-tick team, and the town wants individuals with specific qualifications, including a wildlife biologist and a public health expert.Members of the tick committee would serve on a set four-month timeframe, Mr. Russell said.

Mr. Russell hopes to have the team up and running in four to six weeks. The town would only pay for travel reimbursement for the committee members.

John Rasweiler, a Cutchogue resident and member of Suffolk County’s tick committee, said the area’s tick population is a major concern that must be addressed.

“I would call it a full-fledged public health crisis or emergency,” he said.

Blacklegged and lone-star ticks, which live on the bodies of the North Fork’s deer, can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and other illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

These ticks are particularly dangerous because they are most likely to transmit disease in their nymph stage — just before they become adults. A ticks nymph can be as small as a poppy seed, according to the CDC’s website.

Mr. Rasweiler described several large-scale methods for addressing the tick explosion on the East End, including deer culls through hunting, spraying a tick-killing pesticide called permethrin and the “4-poster system” now being used on Shelter Island.

That system uses bins of corn to attract deer. While the deer feed, their necks and ears rub against paint rollers doused with permethrin, killing any ticks that may be attached.

Mr. Rasweiler, however, was unconvinced that 4-poster devices are the solution to Southold’s tick problems.

“These are very clever devices, and a number of years ago, I was one of the people that advocated for us to use them,” he said. “But then I began to educate myself on them, and there are a number of seriously problems with them.”

For one, each device can cost about $5,000 per year, he said. And since the devices attract so many deer, Mr. Rasweiler said the vegetation in the area could be completely stripped by grazing animals.

Mr. Russell said the committee would be careful to consider potential costs of any potential tick-management system, including 4-poster devices like those on Shelter Island.

“What would it cost to implement a similar project throughout Southold town?”  he said. “We need to evaluate every option not just on effectiveness, but also on whether we can afford it.”

But Mr. Rasweiler stressed that any efforts to lower tick infestation must go hand-in-hand with plan to deal with the deer population.

“Unless you treat 90 percent of the deer, you’re probably wasting your time and money,” he said.

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04/20/15 8:00am
04/20/2015 8:00 AM

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A rare and potentially fatal tick-borne illness is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the Northeast, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Cases of the Neuroinvasive Powassan Virus, or POW, are few and far between but are often serious and becoming more common — both in terms of diagnosis and notoriety. Earlier this month Powassan, which can cause brain inflammation, caused a stir in Connecticut when state officials there announced the disease is starting to show up in more deer ticks in Bridgeport and Branford.

The story has since received national news coverage. (more…)

01/06/15 12:00pm
01/06/2015 12:00 PM
A female deer tick (Credit: Dan Gilrein, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County)

A female deer tick (Credit: Dan Gilrein, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County)

Chronic Lyme disease patients are now one step closer to being able to access a wider range of treatments, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month signed a new law protecting physicians who use treatment options outside federal guidelines.

As with any disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had developed guidelines for treating Lyme, but the CDC guidelines have long created dilemmas for doctors who want to help Lyme patients, since rendering treatment outside the guidelines could leave doctors liable for investigations by the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct. (more…)