Thursday, May 27, 2010

VIRGINIA NEWS: County Looks to Deploy 4-Posters to Fight Lyme

In an effort to slow the spread of Lyme disease, Loudoun County, which has the highest concentration of the disease in Virginia, may seek state permission to install devices that kill the bugs that spread the disease: ticks.

Called the 4-Poster Deer Treatment Bait Station because it resembles a four-poster bed, the device was created by researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the mid-1990s as a means of applying a tick-killing pesticide on the heads and necks of deer.

At a cost of about $425, the simple contraption is composed of a bin that holds corn kernels. When a deer sticks its head in the bin to feed, it rubs against two paintbrushes coated with a permethrin-based tickicide.

“It has proven to be effective,” said Loudoun Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), who is working on a proposal to bring the stations to Loudoun.

In the late 1990s, researchers from Fordham University studied two towns in Upstate New York that were hotbeds for Lyme disease. Of the two, one had 24 of the devices installed, while they other had none. Results showed that after three years, deer in the community without the devices had seven times more ticks on them than deer known to have used the stations in the other community.

On its website, the American Lyme Disease Foundation cites two other studies in Texas and Maryland that showed the stations killed off more than 90 percent of the local tick populations.

Still, what remains unclear, according to Loudoun County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend, is whether the devices help ward off human infections.

“I have not seen a study yet that shows how this reduces Lyme disease,” he said.

Goodfriend said the tried and true methods of avoiding the disease still remain keeping your property maintained and inspecting yourself regularly for ticks. “Controlling your personal environment,” he said, is key to avoiding being infected.

While how effective the stations are in thwarting the disease is still unknown, officials in Fairfax County have already begun the process to acquire one of the devices, which would make it the first jurisdiction in Virginia to employ one, according to Fairfax County Wildlife Biologist Victoria Monroe.

Currently, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries does not permit the stations in Virginia over concerns about their use during hunting season and whether they would attract deer with chronic wasting disease into the Commonwealth.

Monroe said Fairfax is working with the department to create a permitting system that she hopes jurisdictions and homeowners associations alike could use to acquire the stations. She’s hoping Fairfax will gain permission by the end of summer to deploy its station. If so, she said it would likely be installed next February as part of a pilot program on one of two parks being considered. She said one station can maintain the tick population in an area covering at least 50 acres.

Like Goodfriend, she said she knew of no studies that measured the effective of the stations on combating the spread of Lyme disease, but said researchers at Cornell University are currently conducting a study.

Positive results or not, she said they do have their limitations since they only kill ticks found on deer. (Ticks acquire the bacteria that causes Lyme disease from white-footed mice while deer move ticks from place to place.)

If and when permitted in Virginia, she said the stations would likely be deployed as a complement to other disease-prevention techniques, like checking for ticks after being outside.

“By itself," Monroe said, “I don’t think it would work.”

Source: Loudoun Independent