Josephine DeVincenzi used to be an avid birder, but now she avoids the woods in North Haven, fearful of contracting Lyme Disease for the fourth time.
She is by no means alone.
Virtually all of DeVincenzi’s neighbors have contracted Lyme Disease or another tick borne illness at least once, if not multiple times. Even worse, her partner Jan Scanlon developed a life-threatening allergy to meat and dairy after being bitten by a Lone Star tick. In the last eight years, Scanlon has been rushed to the hospital almost a dozen times as a result of the affliction, twice in anaphylactic shock.
Calling the impact tick borne illnesses are having on residents in North Haven — a known hot spot for ticks — a “public health crisis,” on Monday night DeVincenzi urged the North Haven Village Board to explore implementing a “4-Poster” program in the village.
“As you know, North Haven Village served as the control for the 4-Poster Study on Shelter Island that studied tick infestation,” said DeVincenzi. “After three years of study, they found a significant decline in the tick population — a 95-percent decline.”
“While there is no perfect solution to the problem,” she added, “I am here on behalf of myself and the North Haven Manor’s Home Owners Association to demand the village find the means to implement the 4-Poster Program and abate our tick infestation.”
According to Dan Gilrein of Cornell Cooperative Extension, which completed the 4-Poster study in Shelter Island in 2011, DeVincenzi is correct. The study did show tick populations could be controlled over time and significantly reduced using 4-Poster devices. The duel feeding stations are designed to apply the insecticide permethrin to the necks, head, ears and shoulders of deer which are forced to rub up against applicator rollers as they feed at the stations. The permethrin is then transferred to other parts of the body as the deer grooms itself.
According to Gilrein, Cornell Cooperative Extension completed the study to help the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) make an informed decision on whether the state should allow communities to use 4-Poster devices for tick abatement and to what extent.
Gilrein said earlier this year, the DEC did decide to allow permits for 4-Poster devices, but only in Nassau and Suffolk counties and not in upstate New York. The DEC does require a four-year study of deer ecology as well as the tick population in order to gain a permit.
Gilrein added that while 4-Poster systems can be erected on private properties they must be monitored by someone with training.
“It’s a new technology that people have to learn how to use successfully,” he said.
“We know this helps to control ticks and perhaps it is also raising awareness about the role of the deer population in relation to tick borne illnesses,” added Gilrein. “It has also highlighted the need for more information and the importance of personal protection.”
On Monday night, DeVincenzi said she believes the time for study has passed and that because of Cornell’s work there is proof that the 4-Poster program could have a real impact on the lives of people in North Haven.
“How many more people need to be impacted,” she asked. “How many more health care dollars will be spent treating the illness instead of eradicating or reducing the major source of the problem?”
“You are the officials we elected to safeguard our community and the people living in it,” DeVincenzi later added. “Myself and others believe you have fallen short of the objective. We have a Lyme Disease epidemic here and we need action now.”
Nodding his head as DeVincenzi spoke, North Haven Village Board Member George Butts said he has had Lyme Disease about seven times and it is a widespread problem.
“My husband has had it, my daughter had it,” added board member Diane Skilbred.
However, Skilbred noted she had read implementing a 4-Poster program would cost about $1 million.
“How much is it costing us now,” asked DeVincenzi. “We are spending millions on tests, treatments, on trying to protect ourselves, but it is haphazard. We have to have a comprehensive plan.”
DeVincenzi added that she believed residents in North Haven Village would happily pay a little more each year in taxes in order to be protected.
“Tell me what you need, how many petitions you need to get signed and I will do it,” she said.
Board member Jeff Sander said he believed this was a valid concern and something the board should research, immediately, with DeVincenzi’s help.
“Let’s look at some data,” he said.
DeVincenzi said she would also seek to bring an expert on 4-Poster devices to the board’s August 7 meeting.
“I have given up going into the woods and enjoying nature,” she said. “I have just given it up.”
Photos courtesy of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.