NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A cluster of Lyme disease cases on Staten Island is causing concern after one woman wound up with spinal meningitis because of a tick bite.

CBS2’s Brian Conybeare spoke exclusively with the patient, Dee Vandenburg, who wants everyone to be aware of the dangers – even in the city.

The growing deer population has long been a problem on Staten Island.

“We have deer that walk down our street like they own it,” Vandenburg said. “They’re beautiful, but they’re not so pretty anymore.”

She was bitten by a deer tick, which her doctors say infected her with Lyme disease. Since she went undiagnosed for four months, it developed into spinal meningitis.

“It’s the most excruciating pain I’ve ever had in my life,” she told Conybeare.

After about two weeks in the hospital, Vandenburg now has an IV port in her arm to administer daily doses of heavy duty antibiotics.

She lives south of Hylan Boulevard near Wolfe’s Pond Park. Drone Force 2 captured images of the open spaces in the park along the south shore of Staten Island and the densely wooded area, where more and more deer live and breed, despite a $2 million sterilization program launched by the city last year.

Vandenburg says six other people in the Hugenot Beach neighborhood have also been diagnosed with tick borne diseases this summer, and something has to be done.

“Check yourself for ticks,” Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-N.Y.) said.

On Wednesday, the congressman announced a new bill for a pilot program to track deer ticks nationwide and even allow people to send pictures of ticks they pull off their bodies to professional scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“That professional would respond within 72 hours with information about the type of tick and the risks of what diseases they may incur from that tick,” he explained.

They would also tell you what questions to ask your doctor, Conybeare reported. That’s something Vandenburg and her neighbors certainly could have used.

Experts say you should always use insect repellent when outdoors and check yourself and your kids for ticks when you go back inside.

Comments (10)
  1. Lymes is an epidemic. When they say check your kids, they mean check the pubic area, scalp, underarms. I’m serious. The ticks love those areas,

    The medical profession is partly to blame as they refused for a long time to even admit the existence of CHRONIC Lymes Disease. That’s what this lady comes under because it lasted longer than 4 months

  2. Jeff Phelps says:

    Common insect repellents do NOT work with deer ticks. I used to go into the woods with full confidence because I has on something with DEET. Now I don’t go in the woods at all because the ticks are so thick. A decade ago they didn’t even exist in my part of the world. I have video of about 100 of them on a small piece of wood in my back yard. It’s amazing how many of them there are now. It totally keeps people like me from being in the woods and I grew up in the woods. My house is in the woods. I have to spray my yard or I wouldn’t be able to go outside at all. I’ve had as many as 50 deer ticks on me at one time. You can’t feel them crawling on you. They crawl down into your shoes and bite you between your toes. They go overlooked very easily because they are extremely small in certain stages of their life. They are a menace beyond description.

    1. Jeff Phelps says:

      I should have mentioned the video is out of focus because I wasn’t about to get close enough to focus the camera I used. Deer ticks jump like fleas and I didn’t want to get anywhere near them.

  3. This year was particularly bad for ticks. Though I have pulled many wood ticks out of me, this is the first summer I pulled deer ticks out. I have a house in the woods. One day I pulled FIVE deer ticks out of my leg- They were SO SMALL, I needed a magnifying glass to see them. The larger ones are about the size of a poppy seed; easy to miss. But unlike wood ticks, deer ticks cause a small, itchy bump.
    My Lyme specialist gave me a scrip of antibiotics to take in case I pull out ticks- take 2, and it will prevent the infection.

  4. Utah lost a popular HS Football coach to the same this past week.

  5. Couldn’t happen to a nicer city….

  6. Mark Smith says:

    Open up a hunting season. No deer, no ticks.

  7. Tens of thousands of lymies have released lyme disease with rife frequencies…. be free 🙂

  8. I do not understand why doctors mis-diagnose Lyme. I know of one MD that is now in a wheel chair, lost his practice and it is because of Lyme. A surgeon died and other people I know have it. This disease didn’t exist 60 years ago when I was a kid.

    1. Lyme mimics many other illnesses and conditions. The only way to know is to go to a Lyme specialist and get the FULL tick panel; not just the Western Blot.

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