Altamont should warn public about Lyme disease and place ‘tick tubes’ in its parks

To the Editor:

As a nurse, a village of Altamont resident, and as someone who has had personal experience with Lyme disease, I feel that it is important to remind everyone that tick season isn’t over just because it has started to get cooler outside.

On the contrary, as it gets cooler, many of us head outside to take part in activities that we were more hesitant to participate in during the hot summer months — campfires, hiking, gardening, yard clean-up, etc.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is the most commonly occurring vector-borne disease in the United States and causes more than 300,000 illnesses each year. This ranks it as the sixth most frequently reported notifiable infectious disease.

A tricky illness to diagnose, Lyme has early-stage symptoms that can include fever and chills, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen glands. These symptoms can be confused with a bad viral illness unless the victim finds the tick, removes it, and then develops the tell-tale red bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite.

However, this doesn’t occur in 20 to 40 percent of cases, leaving the patient in danger of misdiagnosis and inappropriate or no treatment, which can allow the Lyme disease to progress into late-stage symptoms including severe headache, arthritis, swelling of the joints, and heart and central nervous-system problems.

From 2000 to 2016, Albany County alone has had 3,653 confirmed cases of Lyme disease. However, due to the fact that the CDC’s data represents only confirmed cases, the number is likely closer to 37,000 in Albany County alone.

In May of last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new tick-borne disease control plan. Part of his plan was to deploy the use of eco-friendly tick-control treatments right here in the Capital Region including “tickicide” deer treatment feeding stations, where white-tailed deer can be dosed with insecticide via rollers meant to treat their ears, head, and neck.

The plan also includes the use of “tick tubes” — tubes with permethrin-treated cotton balls that mice (largely responsible for the spread of the disease) use for nesting material. Just last week, it was announced that the state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will be determining where signs warning the public about Lyme disease should be posted based on an individual-needs assessment. Don’t be surprised if you see them posted in Thacher Park the next time you take a hike.

The village of Altamont is 1.2 square miles, and we have four beautiful parks to take advantage of. With a state budget of $1 million, our village representatives should pursue funds for an awareness campaign for the public education of our village residents and visitors.

Lyme disease cases are on the rise and the village of Altamont should consider this a public-health issue. Installing signs educating our residents about Lyme disease — how to prevent it, how it is transmitted and to check themselves, their children and their animals for ticks after a visit to our parks — can help protect our residents from this debilitating disease.

Furthermore, the village should also consider placing its own “tick tubes” in our parks to help combat the tick population. Permethrin is over 2,250 times more toxic to ticks than it is to humans, and according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency it is safe to use around toddlers and pregnant and nursing women.

Less than 1 percent of the active ingredients are absorbed through the skin, and it is a safer alternative to DEET [N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide]. The risks associated with misdiagnosis or non-treatment of Lyme disease far outweigh the risks of using permethrin tubes in our parks.

Lyme disease is an incapacitating condition, and there is so much more that we, as the general public and our elected leaders, can do to advocate for the aggressive control of it. Some of those control methods are not complicated or expensive!

I urge the elected leaders of the village of Altamont to educate themselves on Lyme disease, its prevention strategies, the education to be passed on to the general public, and New York State’s stance on funding and the prevention of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.

Stephanie Palmer

Registered Nurse

Altamont

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