Despite Saturday's downpours and drizzle, Rhode Islanders across the state learned how to protect themselves from deer ticks during the first-in-the-nation Tick Control Awareness Day.
Organized by University of Rhode Island Professor Thomas Mather, director of the URI Center For Vector Borne Diseases, and the Center's outreach coordinator Nathan Miller, the program featured demonstrations at Goddard Park, Burlingame State Park, Colt State Park and a Jamestown residential site.
"Our team dodged the rain all day while providing state residents with the most current and effective tick bite prevention information," Mather said. "About 100 people made it to Goddard Park and another 35 made it to Jamestown. Similar numbers attended programs at the other venues. We were able to get the word out on how to prevent the debilitating effects of deer tick bites. We made a lot of connections and we planted a lot of seeds about prevention strategies."
On Friday at Goddard Park, Mather and his team joined First Lady Sue Carcieri, Sen. Jack Reed, Michael Sullivan, director of the state Department of Environmental Management; Bill Waters, deputy director of the State Department of Health, and Jeff Seemann, dean of URI's College of the Environment and Life Sciences to brief the media about Saturday's programs.
"We are the first in the nation to hold a Tick Control Awareness Day," Mather said as he handed out special tweezers and T-shirts to the speakers. "The shirts were emblazoned with tick illustrations and the messages "Ticks Suck" and "Tick Control Patrol." In addition, Mather, Miller and their team have launched the nation's first website dedicated to tick bite prevention, www.TickEncounter.org.
Carcieri said she was grateful for the knowledge she gained from the URI experts, especially since a granddaughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease just two days before the press event. "As a mother and grandmother, I appreciate learning about these methods of prevention," the first lady said. "It's clear we need to get more involved in prevention. I am so glad that we can take advantage of the wonderful scientists we have here."
"Rhode Island has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of Lyme disease," Reed said. "It is 25 times the national average. The University is not only a leader in the state in combating this problem, but it is also a national leader. I am very proud to say that my office has succeeded in obtaining $480,000 in federal funds to support the program."
Sullivan, who had Lyme disease, said tick bite prevention is embedded in just about every DEM program and that prevention and control efforts are important to the state's tourism industry. Waters said he was on hand to support the entire tick control effort.
"We are very fortunate to have a collaboration with Dr. Tom Mather and the University of Rhode Island. We consider Tom a colleague and a partner."