Deer ticks invade the Island, spreading Lyme and other ills


STATEN ISLAND — Diseases spread through deer ticks and locally acquired cases of Lyme disease are on the rise on Staten Island, according to recent data from the city’s Health Department.

The latest numbers come as Staten Island has seen the sharpest rise in Lyme disease of the five boroughs over the last several years while the Island’s deer population has boomed.

The Health Department said they looked at physician-reported Lyme rashes known as erythema migrans that appeared over a certain period of time to access when and where the infection occurred.

Most of the city residents Health Department officials assessed with Lyme rashes travelled outside of New York City to places like upstate, Long Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

But on Staten Island, about half of borough residents interviewed reported no history of travel during the incubation period of the infection.  

From 2014 to 2016 the number of Islanders with Lyme rashes interviewed by officials during the incubation period who reported not leaving the borough, rose by 127 percent from 11 cases in 2014 to 25 in 2016.

Although the number of cases of Island residents having reported no-travel dropped to 13 cases in 2017, Staten Island still leads the other boroughs in locally acquired cases.

“[S]ince 2015, Staten Island has had the highest incidence rate of Lyme disease in NYC, which may be due to an increasing number of locally acquired cases,” the report reads.

DEER TICK DISEASES ON THE RISE

In 2017, deer tick-borne diseases like babesiosis and anaplasmosis, both of which cause flu-like symptoms, doubled in all boroughs expect Queens from the previous year.

Additionally, local transmission of babesiosis was reported on Staten Island and the Bronx and there was also one report each of locally acquired anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis in Staten Island residents.

Compared to other parts of the city, the Health Department said deer ticks were becoming “widely established” on Staten Island and areas of the Bronx.

In 2016, 19 percent of ticks collected on Staten Island tested positive for borrelia burgdorferi — the bacterium which causes Lyme, the Health Department said.

Though the result of tested ticks is not yet available for 2017, the Health Department said the density of deer ticks doubled from 2016 to 2017 around Staten Island and the Bronx.

The Health Department said it plans to conduct monthly tick surveillance in 17 city parks and plan to survey another 15 sites during the “high tick activity season” from May to July.

Currently, researchers from Columbia University have also started going door to door to the homes “most at risk” of having ticks infected with Lyme on their properties around these Mid-Island and South Shore parks

The university’s field work was prompted after a tick sweep conducted by researchers last summer found all of the borough’s parks they collected ticks from were infected with the Lyme disease bacteria.

A rise in the number of Island Lyme disease cases comes as the borough’s white tail deer population has boomed, which many, including researchers from Columbia University, believe is one of the biggest contributors to a rise in Lyme disease on the Island

During each visit, researchers will do tick sweeps of people’s backyards, educate them on what ticks look like, and try to figure out what might be increasing homeowner’s risk of tick exposure.



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