Letter: Inept deer cull could increase Lyme
Lyme disease is a serious concern on Long Island due to its prevalence, difficulty to properly diagnose, and potential for devastating lingering effects, as well as conflicting opinions on treatment protocols and efficacy ["We tipped nature out of balance," Opinion, Feb. 10]. As a mother, I am particularly concerned about risks to my children and support research on how to decrease the incidence of this dangerous condition.
Many studies have shown that incidence of Lyme disease is not decreased in human populations until the deer population is greatly decreased -- by 90 percent or more. Furthermore, human incidence of the disease is often increased for at least two years following smaller decreases in deer population, as the ticks accept a large range of hosts. If deer aren't available, humans are a good alternative.
Furthermore, it's the second stage of the ixodes tick's life cycle that is most dangerous to humans, and that's when ticks are most commonly found on small rodents, not deer. Several studies have shown that decreasing fox populations are correlated to increased Lyme disease diagnosis in humans. Researchers surmise this is because foxes help control the population of small rodents.
I am concerned that unless we are prepared to cull 90 percent of deer and keep the population at this level, we will not see any decrease in human Lyme disease.
Studies have shown possible decreases in Lyme disease when deer are treated with sprayed-on insecticide. Furthermore, any programs to increase the population of birds of prey, which hunt small rodents, may be effective in decreasing human Lyme disease incidence.
Karen Johnston, Speonk
Editor's note: The writer is a veterinarian.