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County Tick Infection Rates Mimic Statewide Rates, Study Finds

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 16:51

A three-year study of tick infections in Suffolk County's 10 townships showed them to be consistent with ranges of infection rates in New York State, county officials announced Monday.

The study indicates that data collected at each site at different times throughout the year, which captured ticks at different life stages, may not be representative of the entire township.

The East Hampton location showed, in 2018, that 42 percent of the deer tick nymphs collected tested positive for Lyme disease, while 66 percent of the adult deer ticks collected there tested positive for Lyme. Across New York State, nymph infection rates ranged from 0 to 67 percent and adult deer tick infection rates ranged from 44 to 78 percent.

The Lyme disease infection rate in adult deer ticks at the East Hampton site fluctuated over the previous two years. It was 59 percent in 2017 and 62 percent in 2016. None of the nymphs tested positive for Lyme disease in 2017, and the site was not surveyed for nymphs in 2016.

The East Hampton location also showed, in 2018, that deer tick nymphs that were collected carried babesiosis at a rate of 34 percent and adult deer tick samples carried babesiosis at a rate of 8 percent. Statewide, nymphs carried babesiosis at a rate of up to 26 percent and adult deer ticks carried the disease at a rate of up to 24 percent.

At the East Hampton site, in 2018, 2 percent of adult deer tick samples were infected with Powassan virus, and 11.1 percent of nymphs were infected. Statewide data for Powassan virus were not available.

In 2018 at the East Hampton site, adult deer tick samples also tested positive for anaplasmosis at a rate of 12 percent and nymphs tested positive at a rate of 4 percent.

Adult lone star ticks at the East Hampton site were found to carry ehrlichiosis at a rate of 6 percent, while the nymphs carried it at a rate of 4 percent. The statewide study focused on deer ticks.

Suffolk County's tick study was the result of a partnership between the county and its townships and villages.

"I represent Long Island's South Fork and Shelter Island, communities that experience high incidences of tick-borne disease, so I recognize the importance of a strong partnership between the county and local municipalities," Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said in a statement. "Sharing resources, talents, and best practices will serve well all of Suffolk County's residents in combating the challenging health consequences of tick-borne illnesses."

The county announcement indicated tick collection resumed this past spring for the fourth year of the study. The county also developed educational materials for families, schools, and camps, which can be found online by clicking here. Those with questions about tick removal or illnesses can also call Stony Brook Southampton Hospital's Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at 631-726-TICK.

"Education is of key importance when dealing with public health protection," Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk County's commissioner of health services, said in a statement. "We encourage doctors to be familiar with case definitions and to consider vector-borne diseases when diagnosing patients. We also our residents to be vigilant and take the necessary steps to avoid vector-borne diseases."

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