What is Your Tick Plan?
More Ticks In More Places Last Year - Get Ready For This Tick Season. New "Get TickSmart/RI" Campaign themes aim to at make tick bite protection a habit
WARWICK, RI - Warm weather is back and experts say now is the time to prepare for the upcoming tick season. To help raise awareness about how to lower the rate of tick bites and Lyme disease, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island's (URI) TickEncounter Resource Center, and David Mendell, a tick control expert with Bartlett Tree, to kick-off the 2013 Get TickSmart/RI campaign.
During a press conference at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick, Professor Mather noted that TickEncounter staff saw a 116% 'uptick' in the abundance of the tiny, poppy-seed sized blacklegged ticks (a.k.a. deer ticks) when compared to the previous five-year average. This year, the URI team is undertaking its 20th annual surveillance to map deer tick abundance -- and tick infection rates -- within Rhode Island.
"The trend definitely seems to be one of more ticks in more places," stated Mather, pointing out that the 2012 survey data show certain locations in Rhode Island experiencing, year over year increases of incredible 3 and 4 digit percentage increases. As an example, he cited that nymphal ticks were 7.5 times more abundant than normal at one location on the East Greenwich/Warwick border.
Responding to increasing tickborne disease rates, Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, recently reintroduced the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) aimed at creating a national strategy to combat Lyme disease and expand federal research efforts to increase surveillance and prevention.
"Tickborne diseases pose serious public health challenges. We want people to enjoy the great outdoors, but we also want them to be safe and aware of what they can do to protect themselves and their families," said Reed. "Advancing research, surveillance and outreach are vital to our efforts to eradicate suffering from these diseases."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has singled out Lyme disease as the most common and fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the country. In 2011, more than 24,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported in the U.S., with the CDC stating they believed only 10-12% of all cases had been reported.
In calling for a greater federal focus on research, education, and outreach to individuals and families, Reed's legislation would:
- Establish a Tickborne Disease Advisory Committee to streamline coordination between federal agencies and private organizations addressing tick-borne illnesses.
- Coordinate Increased Research and Development Around Lyme Disease: It would help the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) develop more accurate and time-sensitive diagnostic tools to strengthen surveillance and reporting of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.
- Increase Education: It would expand prevention of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases through community-based public education and create a physician-education program that includes the full spectrum of scientific research on the diseases.
The URI TickEncounter Resource Center's newest campaign, Get TickSmart/RI, has an aggressive goal of increasing tick literacy and helping people stay tick safe. Rhode Island has over 3 times the national incidence of Lyme disease cases. As part of the campaign, this year Mather has identified five top TickSmart actions people can take to stay TickSafe.
- KNOW the kind of ticks active throughout the year where you live and identify any tick found biting.
- PERFORM daily tickchecks, especially checking "below the belt" for tiny nymph ticks.
- TURN play clothes and other outdoor clothes into tick repellent clothes.
- TREAT your yard with tick-killing products.
- PROTECT your pet using products with rapid kill or knockdown activity.
"Our goal is to consistently communicate easy to practice, effective strategies for tick-bite protection," Mather explained. "There are dozens of actions people can think of when it comes to ticks but if people want to stay healthy, they have to commit to doing tick-bite protection that's effective. These five simple actions will definitely help."
"Planning for one of those actions, backyard spray treatments to suppress tick populations, is something that should be on homeowners minds right now," commented David Mendell, a TickSmart Certified deer tick control expert with the Bartlett Tree Experts. "Tick habitat modification and application of tick-killing products that target the ticks and not the entire yard is an important part of any integrated tick management plan, and it would be good especially for people living in medium to high tick encounter risk communities to consider this now," Mendell added. Yard treatments to control the tiny nymph stage deer ticks should start just prior to Memorial Day, which is when these ticks begin to emerge.
"We're grateful to Senator Reed for all of his efforts over the past many years in helping to promote tick literacy and Lyme disease prevention," stated Mather. Reed, along with other members of Rhode Island's federal delegation returned over $1 million from 2003-2010 to help support URI's tickborne disease prevention efforts.
See more pictures on TickEncounter's Facebook page.