Sunday, May 14, 2006

NEW YORK NEWS: Lyme Disease Fears Grow on Staten Island

Staten Island has traditionally had a low incidence of Lyme disease. But some worry that more Islanders will get the disease in their back yards due to the borough's growing deer population.

Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the bite of a deer tick, can cause arthritis, fatigue, memory problems, facial paralysis or, at its worst, abnormal heart rhythm and brain infection. It is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.

"Historically, we've had very few cases that have emanated from Staten Island," said Dr. Ernest B. Visconti, chief of infectious diseases at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn. "It may be coming here in the future."

To raise awareness of the disease, the borough president's office will host a forum at the College of Staten Island on June 20 -- just in time for July 4, one of the busiest days for doctors specializing in Lyme disease.

Ever since deer showed up in the borough about 15 years ago, doctors and environmentalists have been on the lookout for a growth in the incidence of Lyme disease. They have not yet established that the disease is in the borough.

Meanwhile, the deer here have multiplied over the years.

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