White-tailed deer are the primary host for the adult stages of deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, which transmit the Lyme disease pathogen.
“This contract brings additional government resources into Rhode Island to help solve the growing tick problem in the state,” said Thomas Mather, professor of entomology and director of the Center for Vector-Borne Disease. “Deer-targeted strategies for disease control represent a largely untested opportunity for providing significant public health relief,” he added.
White-tailed deer had not been observed in Jamestown as recently as 1986, but current estimates suggest that the population is now more than 400 animals or nearly 50 per square mile. Tick surveillance over the last 16 years indicates that the risk of encountering a deer tick has increased significantly on the island as the deer population has increased, and the incidence of Lyme disease in Jamestown reportedly also has increased greatly.
As part of the CDC contract, Mather will establish a committee of local and state stakeholders that will be charged with developing an action plan focused on deer-targeted interventions to reduce Lyme disease in Jamestown. A public hearing on the plan will be held, and a Lyme disease registry will be established on the island to determine the incidence rate for the disease and predict the probability of future cases.
“The most exciting aspect of Rhode Island winning this feasibility assessment contract,” explained Mather, “is that it may lead to additional funding for actually implementing a disease reduction plan in a heavily impacted municipality.”
For more information on deer targeted tick control, visit www.tickencounter.org/research/area_wide.