Innovative Hudson Valley anti-Lyme program to receive $100,000 in state funding

Female black-legged tick, aka deer tick.

A local program that’s using a coordinated approach to saturation bomb the ticks that spread Lyme disease across 24 Dutchess County neighborhoods will officially receive the $100,000 in state funding that was approved in the spring.

Tomorrow morning, State Senator Jen Metzger will present a check to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies at its Millbrook location. She will be joined by Cary Institute President, Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, who will discuss ongoing challenges to securing New York State funding for Lyme research and prevention. The State Senate previously approved $192,000 for the project in 2018.

The Tick Project is a five-year study to determine whether neighborhood-based prevention measures can reduce human cases of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. It’s now in year four. The study will determine whether two tick control methods, used separately or together, can reduce the number of cases of Lyme disease at the neighborhood level. It is being conducted by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in partnership with Bard College.

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We reported on the project in detail back in 2016. According to that article, there are 24 neighborhoods, each consisting of six to ten blocks and roughly 100 properties, all located in Dutchess County. The two means of control are:

  • Met52 fungal spray, contains the spores of a fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, that occurs naturally in forest soils in eastern North America and has been shown to kill ticks.
  • The “Tick Control System” bait box that kills ticks on rodents who pass without it, but leaves the rodents unharmed.

The project aims to find out if, by expanding the area of application, enough ticks can be destroyed to make a difference. Biologist Felicia Keesing of Bard College, who is leading the project along with Cary Institute disease ecologist Richard Ostfeld, said in 2016 that studies have found removing up to 65 percent of ticks in an area had no effect on incidences of Lyme disease infection in those areas. Researchers hope the Tick Project can kill up to 90 percent.

In addition to the $100,000 awarded to the Cary Institute, grants of $50,000 were awarded to the University at Stony Brook, for research; Cornell Cooperative Extension, for education and outreach; and Columbia Medical Center’s Lyme and Tick Borne Disease Research Center.  The funds were secured as part of a budget appropriation targeted to general public health programs that had been included in the state 2019-2020 budget.

“This funding will help support institutions and organizations that are doing invaluable work advancing our understanding of Lyme and ways to prevent it, as well as educating the public, which is one of the best forms of prevention,” said Senator Metzger who has had the disease five times. “This is a public health crisis and it needs to be treated like one.”

Although most cases of Lyme disease clear up with a dose of antibiotics, some of those infected report symptoms persisting after all detectable traces of the bacteria have been removed from their bodies, including aching joints and decreased memory.

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