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Could your Trip to the Cape Give you Lyme Disease? What Scientists are Working on To Help.

There is no doubt that many of you will be heading to the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Cape very soon. The promise of warmer weather brings out the desire to start packing up the car almost instantly. Along with a high rate of tourist infestation, these areas also show the highest rate of Lyme disease infection in Massachusetts.

The Boston Globe reports that between 2010 and 2014 a small town on Martha’s Vineyard named Chilmark ranked 1st with 1,316 cases per 100,000 people. Nantucket came in second with 598 Lyme cases out of 100,000, and there were other areas in the Cape and surrounding Islands that ranked high as well. Not to say that Lyme Disease prevention doesn’t stay on everyone’s minds across the entire state, “Worcester and Middlesex counties have seen sharp increases in Lyme rates in recent years,” but the Coast continues to lead the pack. Dr. Gerald Yukevich of Vineyard Medical Care says that of the 60 or more patients he may treat on a summer day, 8 or 9 are often cases of Lyme Disease. That’s 8 or 9 EACH DAY.

Can We Change Lyme Disease Numbers for Good?

So what do we do? The ticks are out there. The deer are out there. We don’t want to close ourselves inside during the best weather of the year. Dick Johnson is a biologist working with the tick-borne illness prevention program, sponsored by six of the Island towns’ boards of health. He believes that the way to lower the cases of Lyme disease is to decrease the population of deer. This concept of “culling” the deer population seems to have a high level of doubters. Without almost complete elimination there will be little effect on the spread of disease according to Kiersten Kugeler, and epidemiologist for the CDC.

Mice Transmit Lyme to the Ticks

There is another idea out there. What if the weak link is the mouse? In their earlier stages, ticks often feed on mice before they latch onto and might infect larger mammals…meaning us. The mice are the perfect host for these smaller, younger ticks and they are also the carrier of Lyme disease. So the process is this: the larvae stage tick latches onto a mouse to feed, contracts Lyme disease, molts into a nymph tick ready to spread the disease to us and our pets. Biologist Kevin Esvelt believes that if we can genetically modify the mice so that they cannot contract Lyme disease, then we can stop it from spreading. Esvelt proposes that mice be genetically altered to either be resistant to Lyme disease or to tick bites. His lab at MIT leads the country in this type of gene altering research. This proposal would be many years in the making and, as with all scientific research, has its opponents. At Mosquito Squad of Chelmsford & Cambridge we will be watching with high hopes to see where this research goes.

Using Mice is Very Effective in Current Lyme Disease Prevention Methods

Our tick tube system uses the instincts of mice and their nesting habits to control ticks within your yard. Within our system, twice yearly we place our biodegradable tick tubes filled with treated cotton in strategic areas of your property. The mice will take this cotton material and use it for bedding in their nests. While not harmful to the mice, the treated cotton will eliminate ticks that come to the mice for their next blood meal. Stopping ticks in early life stages prevents the threat of disease to your family, not only this year but in future years as well. Call us today to schedule an appointment at (978) 381-4028!

And when you’re on vacation, enjoying untreated areas, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of TickEncounter’s tick safety tips.