Talk on ticks spurs a call for help

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | County Legislator Ed Romaine speaking during Thursday’s tick task force meeting in Peconic. Seated are task force members (from left) Dr. Scott Campbell, director of Suffolk County Department of Health Services’s arthropod-borne disease laboratory; Shelter Island deer & tick committee chairwoman Patricia Schillingburg; Empire State Lyme Disease Association president Eva Haughie and DEC special assistant to the commissioner Vincent Palmer.

East Enders who have suffered the brunt of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases had their chance Wednesday night to explain their frustrations to a new county task force charged with coming up with concrete steps to control the spread of the diseases.

County Legislator Ed Romaine convened the 16-member Tick & Vector-Borne Disease Task Force earlier this fall in an attempt to focus on the health crisis facing the East End.

The committee held a public hearing at the Southold Recreation Center in Peconic Wednesday, at which several members of the task force got an earful from local people who’ve suffered from years of chronic Lyme Disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other serious illnesses.

Many in attendance said they’ve had difficulty getting doctors to take their chronic symptoms seriously and put them on the long-term antibiotics they need to go about their lives. Still others told stories of years and sometimes decades in which they suffered misdiagnoses before finally being correctly diagnosed with Lyme Disease.

“The insurance companies don’t want to pay for it…. Doctors that know what to do and have the guts to do it are afraid,” said Sue Ulrich of Shirley. “You don’t need any of those degrees to know you are sick.”

“If you’re a tourist, you should come here in a tank and don’t get out,” said Ugo Polla of Cutchogue, who added that ticks abound in vineyards and other tourist destinations. “Have the wine delivered, drink it and get out.”

“It seems like we just keep studying these things. We need action,” said Hugh Switzer of Peconic. “We need support for our supervisor and board for actions necessary to get rid of deer. We have friends who no longer want to visit with us. They say, ‘why would I want to come if every time I go outside I have to check for ticks.’ Our children won’t bring our grandchildren to see us.”

Read more about Wednesday’s tick hearing in the Oct. 18 issue of The Suffolk Times.

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