If 2013 runs true to form, another 2,000-plus Connecticut residents will be diagnosed with Lyme disease, adding their names to tens of thousands of other state residents who have contracted the disease over the past decade.
And Lyme disease is but one offering on the expanding menu of tickborne maladies afflicting the local population. Babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever were joined just last week by a new tickborne disease so novel that the Yale researchers who discovered it in southern Connecticut have yet to give it a common name. So, with the advent of another tick season, public health officials are gearing up to meet the threat head-on. (See story this week.)
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), municipal health districts, and researchers in both the public and private sectors are conducting surveys and collecting data that should help refine strategies for addressing the continuing threats of tickborne diseases. While there is plenty to talk about when it comes to reducing the populations of deer ticks and their deer hosts in Connecticut’s woodlands and suburban environments, the most potent weapon in this fight is not dependent on the outcome of studies or policy debates.
Health officials call it BLAST, an acronymic reminder to check yourself for ticks when you come in from outside. B is for bathing soon after spending time outdoors. L is for looking yourself over daily, and properly removing ticks when you find them. A is for avoiding tick-laden environments when you can. S is for safeguarding your own yard from tick infestations. (The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station website has some tick management advice at www.ct.gov/caes.) T is for the treatment you should seek from a physician if you think you have contracted a tickborne disease.
Now that spring is blossoming with the help of longer days and warmer temperatures, the outdoors is becoming irresistible. And with some common sense precautions, there is no good reason for resistance.