Thursday, August 20, 2009

MARYLAND NEWS: Community Fights Lyme with Four-Posters

'Faced with the highest number of reported Lyme disease cases in the state, Howard County officials have expanded a program to combat the disease.

The county has installed four new "Four-Poster" devices, which coat deer with pesticide that kills the ticks that cause Lyme disease, in Schooley Mill Park in Highland, said Philip Norman, deer project manager for the county Department of Recreation and Parks.

"That area of the county had an extremely high incidence of Lyme disease," Norman said. "The primary concern we have here is Lyme disease carried by the black-legged tick, also called the deer tick."

The devices, installed at the beginning of July, joined six others in Blandair Park, in Columbia, which were installed in 2005, Norman said. They consist of a dish of corn surrounded by four rollers, which roll pesticide onto the deer's head and ears as it noses toward the food.

Norman noted that ticks tend to concentrate around the head and ears, plus the deer then uses its head to groom the rest of its body, spreading the pesticide.

The United States Department of Agriculture developed the device in the 1990s and they are manufactured in Ellicott City, Norman said. "It's amazing in its simplicity," he said.

Howard County had the highest number of reported cases of Lyme disease in the state in 2008, according the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

There were 369 confirmed and probable cases reported in the county in 2008, the department reported last month, up from 358 in 2007. Statewide, the total decreased from 2,576 cases in 2007 to 2,216 in 2008.

Officials have attributed the increase here to increased development.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by an infected tick. If not detected and treated, it may cause chronic symptoms that can include joint pain, heart palpitations and neurological problems, according to Howard County health officials.

Norman said treating the deer is key to combating the disease. "After several years of treatment in any given area you can greatly reduce the prevalence," Norman said. The white-tailed deer is the primary host of the adult tick in the county, Norman said.

The Four-Poster devices are manufactured by C.R. Daniels Co., an Ellicott City-based firm.

Andy Szulinski, a vice president at C.R. Daniels, said the company manufactures about 400 Four-Posters a year, serving 20 states, Canada and Scotland. Each unit sells for about $800 and services between 50 and 100 acres, he said.

Szulinski said the company collaborated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on designing the devices and is the only company in the country that sells them.

Deer host more ticks than any other animal, Szulinski said, making the device the most effective way of combating Lyme disease.

"You're going after the source of the adult ticks," he said.

All of the Four-Posters are made in the company's Ellicott City manufacturing plant, he added.

C.R. Daniels was established in 1918 and makes a variety of products, from carts used by the U.S. Postal Service to lawn and garden equipment, he said. The company has a 180,000-square foot plant in Ellicott City and a 100,000-square foot plant in Tennessee, he said.


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