NYC Steps Up Tick Control Measures on Staten Island

"Lyme disease is a serious issue, and anyone who thinks that the worst-case scenario simply involves a prescription for antibiotics is dangerously unaware of Lyme's true medical and societal implications," said Jimmy Oddo, Staten Island borough president.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Jimmy Oddo, Staten Island borough president, this week announced a new initiative that will enhance tick surveillance and control measures on Staten Island to reduce the risk of Lyme and other diseases caused by tick bites. The city will increase spending by approximately $600,000 per year.

"We understand how serious Lyme disease can be, and while we're seeing cases level off, even one case is one too many," de Blasio said. "Today, we're committing to doubling down on our efforts and our focus on Staten Island, where we know this disease is of particular concern. We hope New Yorkers join us and do their due diligence to keep themselves safe."

"Since we got to Borough Hall in 2014, my team and I have spent a great deal of time focused on ticks and Lyme disease," said Oddo. "We do so not because we are alarmists, but because we understand the serious medical effects of the disease, the troubling trends indicated by the local data, and how all of this ultimately impacts Staten Islanders. We need to continue to educate the public about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases; we need to aggressively work with physicians to ensure the accurate reporting of these diseases so that we have a proper understanding of their incidence; and we need to begin a targeted reduction of the tick population, including the use of mouse bait stations. We discussed this latter tool in depth with our friend Dr. Richard Ostfeldt, who has been doing impactful research on ticks, during our visit with him a few months ago at the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies. It is for these reasons that Mayor de Blasio, DOH Commissioner Bassett, and I are so thoroughly pleased with the announcement today of a new tick control initiative on Staten Island. This will include a number of measures, including enhanced surveillance, outreach, and other control measures. An increase in spending by approximately $600,000 a year is a much-needed and most welcome commitment on the part of City Hall. Lyme disease is a serious issue, and anyone who thinks that the worst-case scenario simply involves a prescription for antibiotics is dangerously unaware of Lyme's true medical and societal implications."

Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett pointed out that prevention is the best tool against Lyme disease, and it can be treated easily if detected early. "This plan focuses on raising awareness about prevention while controlling the spread of the blacklegged tick, a known vector of the disease," she explained. "The Health Department's enhanced efforts will increase public education about tick precautions, enhance surveillance for human cases of Lyme disease, and expand monitoring for ticks to more parks, improving our ability to control ticks and prevent Lyme disease."

The city's new funding includes:

  • Enhanced tick surveillance of city parks: The Health Department will double the number of surveillance sites on Staten Island from 14 to 28.
  • Enhanced surveillance of New Yorkers with Lyme disease, focused on Staten Island: The department will conduct more detailed case investigations of Lyme disease and work in partnership with NYC Parks and academic institutions to better understand risk factors for infection.
  • Outreach: Health education and prevention activities on tick-borne diseases will be expanded.
  • Tick control: Novel methods under consideration for use next spring include bait boxes, which attract mice. Mice are the primary reservoir of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Once the mice enter the bait box, they are covered with a small amount of the same active ingredient used to control ticks on pets. The Health Department may also use a biological pesticide that uses a fungus found in soil to spray on vegetation where ticks look for hosts, such as deer, to feed on.

New York City has seen a growing number of tick-borne diseases. Most NYC residents are infected outside of the five boroughs, but rates of Lyme disease are higher on Staten Island than in all of the other boroughs.

"The steep increase in Lyme disease cases that have originated on Staten Island in the past five years is very troubling, especially since researchers recently found so many ticks in the Mid-Island and the South Shore," said Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo. "I am pleased the city will be doing more to address this problem, and I look forward to looking through the data they collect so we can work together to address its root causes with effective solutions."

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