With tick-borne illnesses on the rise and of grave concern, County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk has proposed a bill that would require Suffolk County Vector Control to develop a yearly procedure to reduce the incidence of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
The agency was created to focus on both mosquito and tick-borne illnesses, Mr. Schneiderman noted in a recent press release, but, while it sprays mosquito breeding areas to control the spread of insect-borne diseases such as the West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, it has not centered efforts on illnesses caused by ticks.
“The county has done a good job preventing West Nile, but needs to step up efforts to reduce Lyme disease,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the number of Lyme cases diagnosed nationwide annually has reached 300,000. There are 1,000 cases of West Nile per year, Mr. Schneiderman said in the press release, “making it 300 times more likely that a Suffolk County resident will contract Lyme disease than West Nile virus.”
Under the proposed legislation, which is cosponsored by Legislator Al Krupski, who represents the North Fork, Vector Control, a division of the Public Works Department, is to create a program for prevention, methods to be employed, and the methodologies that would be used to determine the effectiveness of the program. Vector Control has a budget of $2.5 million.
“Towns and villages are struggling to develop plans to respond to the growing Lyme disease cases,” Mr. Schneiderman said in the release. “The county should be playing a leadership role in prevention.”
Besides Lyme disease, residents of Suffolk County are often diagnosed with other tick-borne illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. Of the vector-borne illnesses found in the United States, Lyme disease is by far the most prevalent, accounting for more than 95 percent, according to Mr. Schneiderman’s press release.
“A primary function of government is to protect the health and welfare of residents of Suffolk County. It is time for Suffolk County to take a lead role in preventing the incidence of tick-borne illnesses,” the release said.
A hearing on the proposed legislation is scheduled for the County Legislature’s next general meeting, on Oct. 8 at the County Center in Riverhead. The time has not yet been arranged.