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Jul 16, 2019 5:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

County Executive Bellone Announces Tick Talks For Awareness And Prevention Of Tick-Borne Illnesses

A table of information given out by Stony Brook Southampton Hospital at the Tick Talk at Hampton Bays Public Library on July 11. JULIA HEMING
Jul 17, 2019 4:14 PM

In an effort to help prevent the spread of tick-borne illnesses, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a series of “Tick Talks” at local libraries to spread knowledge and prevent tick bites—and the first event took place at the Hampton Bays Public Library on July 11.

Dr. Scott Campbell, the entomology lab chief at the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in partnership with Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center, helps to spread awareness by sharing his medical knowledge of ticks and ways to prevent associated illnesses. “You really want to target the ticks,” Dr. Campbell said at the Hampton Bays event.

The July 11 Tick Talk at Hampton Bays Public Library was the first of nine Tick Talks and 20 related events throughout the county. The next Tick Talk with Dr. Campbell will be at Westhampton Free Library on Friday, July 12, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and again on Friday, July 26, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The program is aimed at educating the public by letting people learn prevention and protection techniques from experts.

Dr. Campbell stressed that keeping yards dry is one of the better ways to keep ticks at bay. “The moister the environment, the more likely that ticks will be there,” he said.

To lessen the number of ticks in a yard, people should avoid planting fruit trees near areas of play or relaxation. Dr. Campbell also recommended creating a mulch or wood chip border around a yard. “Dry on the top, moist on the bottom—good for the plants and bad for the ticks,” he said, adding that it would also act as a physical barrier, keeping people away from the edge of the yard, where ticks might be lurking.

“Typically, you find ticks along the edge—that’s where people have things planted, or you could have woods around you,” he said.

For families with children, taking extra caution is important, Dr. Campbell said. “Play areas should not be at the edge of the property,” he said. “They should be at a sunny location.” Ticks do well in dark, moist areas, so the areas that are dry and sunny are not ideal for them, he noted.

Putting up a solid fence can decrease tick populations, since deer are less likely to jump something they can’t see behind, he said. Fewer deer leads to less tick infestation, which lowers the possibility of a tick bite in your yard.

The planting of tick repellent flora such as daffodils or lavender can also lower tick populations in your yard, Dr. Campbell said.

“Whatever you plant, you want to try to think about the relationship with deer,” he said.

Wearing long pants and tucking them into socks can prevent ticks from climbing up someone’s leg under their pants, in addition to using pesticides like DEET in standard bug sprays.

The county recommends the use of permethrin, a pesticide that can only be sprayed on fabric. Spraying outdoor clothes and shoes with permethrin protects them for up to six washes.

An audience member asked during the meeting if garlic spray works as well as other pesticides, to which Dr. Campbell replied that he knows of a scientist who is doing trials with natural products like garlic and cedar oil. “He is finding that they are not as effective as permethrin.” he said.

To prevent ticks from entering a home, after spending time outside, Dr. Campbell said people should place their clothes in a dryer on high for about 10 minutes. Ticks can’t survive a hot and dry environment, so they will die in the dryer, he said—but they can survive a cycle in the washing machine, so simply washing the clothes won’t kill any ticks, even if hot water is used, he cautioned.

If the preventative measures don’t work and someone finds themselves with an embedded tick, Dr. Campbell recommends the CDC’s tactic to remove it: Quickly remove it by grasping firmly near the tick’s head with tweezers and pull straight up. If the head of the tick breaks off, it’s not necessary to squeeze it out. The body will push it out on its own.

After the tick is removed, the area should be cleaned with alcohol, and the tick should be taped to a blank index card with the date it was found. The person should then watch for symptoms in the week after tick removal.

A prescription for doxycycline, an antibiotic used to prevent symptoms from Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, may also be obtained. Doxycycline has an 85 percent effective rate if taken within the first 72 hours after removal, he said.

Dr. Campbell also said he feels that it is unnecessary to send ticks to get tested, for three reasons: the method of tick testing isn’t always accurate, a tick would test positive for a specific disease but the patient could be negative for the diseases associated with those pathogens, and a patient could’ve been bitten by another tick that went unnoticed.

“This shared services initiative is another example of how local governments can leverage their resources to address a regional public health issue,” Mr. Bellone said. “I thank our partner municipalities for their commitment to advancing research of tick-borne illness and developing preventative strategies to safeguard residents.”

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