MILLBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Warmer temperatures wake up ticks, which go dormant in the winter.
But now, a first-of-its-kind experiment is aimed at reducing tick populations in their active seasons.
Researchers want to know if treating entire neighborhoods will mean fewer cases of Lyme disease and other tick-related illnesses.
Carlisle Stockton doesn’t want her dogs Gypsie and Jasper catching a tick-borne illness.
“It’s definitely a concern. My one dog has gotten Lyme disease, erlichiosis, antiplasm, all those in the past, so it’s a concern every single day,” Stockton told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
During tick season, the dogs get a daily dose of tick repellant.
But in Dutchess County, where tick-borne illness rates for dogs and humans are among the highest in New York state, work is underway to see if tick reduction can be effectively accomplished on a large scale in entire neighborhoods.
Bard College biologist Dr. Felicia Keesing is co-director of “The Tick Project.” Their goal?
“Reduce ticks in such numbers, to such low numbers, that we can actually prevent people from getting sick, prevent cases of illness,” said Keesing.
Researchers recruited more than 1,000 homeowners in 24 Dutchess neighborhoods. They’ve placed baited rodent boxes in those areas, so whenever a critter enters one of the boxes, it gets a dose of a tick-killing chemical.
Another method being tested is spraying a biopesticide called “Met 52,” which is made of fungus spores that kill ticks.
The Tick Project is a blind study, so homeowners don’t know if the rodent boxes have the tick-killing chemical, or if Met 52 is being sprayed in their area – or just water.
Researchers will monitor tick populations and the number of tick-borne illnesses being diagnosed. They’ll also look to see “fewer cases of illness in the properties that are getting tick reduction treatments,” Keesing said.
Researchers want to know if the methods work, alone or in tandem.
If they do, wide-scale use could be coming to a tick-infested neighborhood near you.
It’s the first time the tick-control products have been tested on a large scale.
The N.Y. state Health Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supporting the study.