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Fighting Lyme: Why isn't NH doing it?

August 03. 2013 12:17AM

In New Hampshire last year, there were no human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and only one person contracted West Nile Virus. Lime disease cases totaled 1,460. Yet guess which of these three potentially debilitating viruses has the fewest public resources dedicated to its control?

Many municipalities spray to keep mosquito populations in check specifically to reduce the risk that humans might get either West Nile or EEE. The state Agriculture Department issues permits for town-wide pest spraying. It has received no applications for tick spraying.

But it can be done. "A lot of the products we use in the mosquito business are equally effective on ticks," Mike Simone of Mosquito Terminators in Epping told us last week. Simone said he does properties as large as six acres.

Tim Belinsky, manager of Mosquito Squad in Greenland said municipalities could attack ticks as well as mosquitoes. "That could just be done with a spray," he said.

State agriculture officials said they were aware of some towns spraying atheltic fields for ticks, but not of any town-wide, systematic tick reduction programs. There is nothing at the state level, either.

"We are funded through a federal grant to do some arboviral work, but we don't have any specific funding for Lyme disease," Chris Adanski, bureau chief for infectious diseases, told us late last week. "It would be logical to think that for the most common diseases you would have the most funding, but it doesn't work that way."

No, it does not. Instead, governments respond to public outrcies. A lot of the mosquito-spraying programs came about after the public (including this newspaper) demanded action to combat West Nile Virus and EEE. If the public demanded a similar approach to ticks, maybe we could make some headway against Lyme disease, which has become a serious public health threat while we all were swatting mosquitoes.

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