A local study aiming to put a dent in Lyme disease rates by testing different tick-culling methods in 24 Hudson Valley neighborhoods will benefit from $100,000 in state funding, secured in June by State Sen. Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale).
At a press conference last week at the Cary Institute in Millbrook, Metzger spoke of her own travails with Lyme; she said that she has had the tick-borne illness five times. Most cases of Lyme will clear up with a dose of antibiotics, but many report lingering symptoms, like aching joints and ailing memories, even after they have no detectable trace of the disease in their bodies.
“Lyme is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States and accounts for more than 80 percent of tick-borne diseases,” said Metzger. “I have long admired Cary Institute for the invaluable work the organization does to advance our understanding of Lyme and ways to prevent it.”
The five-year project, which is currently in its fourth year, employs two different experimental methods of tick control on about 100 properties throughout the area. The fungus Metarhizium anisopliae has been manufactured into a commercially-available spray called Met52, which is sprayed on vegetation where ticks lurk; the spores of the fungus have been shown to kill ticks in nature. The other, a small black box that attracts small animals, kills ticks on squirrels and other vectors while leaving the animal unharmed. Fipronil, the substance used for flea treatments in dogs and cats, is the active ingredient in that technique.
The project’s goal is to find out if the methods can kill enough ticks to lower rates of lyme disease in the targeted areas. The study aims to eradicate 90 percent of each areas’ ticks.
“This is a public health crisis and needs to be treated like one,” said Metzger.