Legislature proclaims June 2 Tick Control Awareness Day in Rhode Island

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URI tick expert warns that the active tick season is underway

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 16, 2007 – Both houses of the Rhode Island General Assembly recently passed resolutions declaring June 2 as Tick Control Awareness Day in Rhode Island.

In preparation for Tick Control Awareness Day, a team of University of Rhode Island tick experts is planning a series of events on that date aimed at educating the public about ways to prevent deer tick bites and Lyme disease.

“Tick-borne diseases are epidemic in Rhode Island,” said Thomas Mather, URI professor of entomology and director of the Center for Vector-Borne Disease. “With Tick Control Awareness Day, we hope to start a social movement toward tick-bite prevention so contagious that all Rhode Islanders become ‘infected’ with the knowledge and motivation to take steps to protect themselves from tick bites.

“We already have effective ways to protect ourselves from ticks,” he added, “what we need is the means to motivate Rhode Islanders to use them, and that’s where government funding comes in.”

The URI tick expert has called on state lawmakers to help by funding an office of tick control and tick-bite prevention that serves all of Rhode Island.

In 2006, more than two-thirds of Rhode Island residents were at risk for encountering a deer tick in their backyards, according to data from Mather’s annual statewide survey of ticks, yet the state has not allocated any funding to reduce the threat of tick-borne disease. A 2004/2005 URI survey found that 86 percent of Rhode Islanders do not regularly use any of the available tick bite prevention strategies.

Deer tick abundance in Rhode Island increased last year by 7 percent over 2005, making it the second highest year on record for ticks in the state. Only in 2002 was there a higher abundance of these ticks in Rhode Island.

The deer tick season is already well underway, according to Mather, with adult ticks foraging actively around forest edges, grassy areas and backyards. Risk for contracting Lyme disease is greatest when the nymphal stage ticks are most active later in May, June and July.

Mather recommends that all Rhode Islanders take precautions to prevent contracting Lyme disease by routinely practicing personal protective measures and implementing tick control strategies around the yard. He recommends:

– checking oneself thoroughly every day for ticks;

– applying repellent containing Permethrin to clothing and wearing treated clothing whenever going outdoors;

– keeping the edge of the yard clear of leaf litter because that’s where exposure to ticks is most likely to occur; and

– hiring a trained professional pest controller or arborist to apply an appropriate tick treatment around the yard.

Adult deer ticks must be attached for 48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease pathogen, while nymphs, which are tiny and difficult to see, need only be attached for 24 hours to transmit a Lyme infection.

In addition to Lyme disease, deer ticks also carry a malaria-like protozoan that causes babesiosis and a bacterium that causes human anaplasmosis. Like Lyme disease, these infections cause summertime flu-like symptoms and are difficult to diagnose, but unlike Lyme disease, they can be fatal.

For more information on tick-bite prevention and Tick Control Awareness Day programs, bookmark and visit www.tickencounter.org regularly.