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Research on Lyme Disease and Ticks

EPA Completing Multi-Year Research on Lyme Disease and Ticks on Cape and Islands

Researchers conducing field studies in August & September

(Boston, Mass. – Aug. 8, 2013) – EPA scientists, collaborating with Cape Cod Extension and the UMass Laboratory of Medical Zoology, are working this summer to complete a multi-year study evaluating the effectiveness of  lower-impact “integrated pest management “ techniques to reduce populations of blacklegged ticks in the environment.

Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) carry and transmit the virus that causes Lyme disease. These ticks are often described as “deer ticks” but scientists no longer use this name because deer are only one of many hosts for the species.  Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in New England and other epidemiological research indicates that incidence of Lyme disease and other serious tick-borne disease is increasing in the region.

Specifically, the ongoing research evaluates the effectiveness of “four-poster” deer feeding stations using host-targeted insecticide application, instead of broadcast applications to the environment.  The four-poster deer feeding station is used to treat deer with the pesticide permethrin, which in turn kills ticks present on the deer.

While the research is not completed, EPA’s preliminary analysis detected an effect of the experimental four-poster treatments on blacklegged tick abundance.  However, the magnitude of this effect relative to other tick control methods is still being analyzed.

EPA’s mobile laboratory will be visible in different portions of Cape Cod and the Islands over the following several weeks.

Scheduled Mobile Laboratory Locations:
Until Aug. 18: Cape Cod, Cape Cod Organic Farm/ Extension Field Office 3675 Main St., Barnstable (Route 6A)
Aug. 19 – Aug. 28: Martha’s Vineyard/Chappaquiddick
Sept. 3 – Sept. 9: Nantucket

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of cases of tick borne disease including Lyme disease is increasing, especially in New England and the northeastern United States.  Scientists and public health officials believe the causes of these increases include ecological and environmental changes (such as shifts in land-use patterns); changes in wildlife communities (i.e., some species are more resistant to ticks or Lyme disease than others) ; human behavior changes leading to greater exposure risks; and better diagnostic, surveillance and reporting practices for Lyme disease. Current research is helping to understand the reasons for the increased risk and develop better protections.

More information:

EPA information on permethrin: http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/permethrin_fs.htm

Centers for Disease Control information on Lyme Disease and other tick borne diseases:http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases

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