Suffolk County has a brand spanking new Tick Control Advisory Committee, which will be attacking the tick-borne disease crisis on a precise new front: working with the county’s Vector Control office, which now devotes much of its energy to mosquito control, on a plan to manage ticks.
The committee, formed at the urging of Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of the South Fork, will hold its first meeting tomorrow at the Riverhead County Center.
“A primary function of government is to protect the health and welfare of residents of Suffolk County,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “This committee will help Vector Control develop a plan to reduce the incidence of Lyme Disease and other tick borne-illnesses.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control reported last year that Lyme Disease was 10 times more prevalent than the CDC had previously believed, with 300,000 cases diagnosed each year, many of which had never previously been reported to the CDC.
New York doctors have reported more than 5,000 cases of Lyme Disease in five of the last ten years, more than any other state. The full state-by-state report is available here. But, the CDC says, those numbers likely far underestimate the amount of people who have the disease, because many diagnoses are actually never reported to the CDC.
Despite this public health crisis, ticks are not widely treated by public health agencies as a “disease vector” insect. Mr. Schneiderman’s plan is to change that.
The new Tick Advisory Committee will oversee the implementation of Mr. Schneiderman’s 2013 legislation requiring Vector Control to submit annual plans on reduction of tick-borne illnesses, including the work to be done, the methods to be employed and methods of determining the effectiveness of the program.
In 2012, Suffolk County created a Tick and Vector-Borne Diseases Task Force, at the urging of then-North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine, which held public hearings with great fanfare in the fall of that year.
But that task force did not release a report expected at the end of 2013, and its commission from the county was expected to expire June 1, 2014. Mr. Schneiderman sponsored legislation in June to give the task force until December to complete its report, after which the terms of office of the members of that task force will expire.
The new Tick Control Advisory Committee has 12 members, some of whom were on the original task force, including Drs. Scott Campbell and John Rasweiler.
Vector Control Director Dominick Ninivaggi and Laboratory Director Ilia Rochlin are serving on the new committee, as is Jason Hann from Mr. Schneiderman’s office and North Fork Legislator Al Krupski’s legislative aide, Gwynn Schroeder.
Brian Kelly of East End Tick & Mosquito Control, Nick Gibbons of the county parks and recreation department, Jeremy Samuelson of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Shelter Island Supervisor James Dougherty and Dan Gilrein of Cornell Cooperative Extension will also serve on the new committee.
“Ticks and the diseases they transmit are clearly a problem in Suffolk County and in many regions of our country,” said Mr. Ninivaggi. “We are researching what is needed to better understand the problem and what we can do from a practical point of view to address the issue. Any actual control efforts will have to pass a thorough environmental review.”