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Mar 12, 2019 3:55 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Suffolk County Announces Region-Wide Partnership To Enhance Tick Mitigation Practices

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming explaining how to identify a tick. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Mar 12, 2019 4:23 PM

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a new partnership between the county and 10 local municipalities to strengthen efforts in mitigating the persisting tick crisis.

The partnership, called the SuffolkSHARE Public Health Partnership, is a program under the county’s shared services initiative that includes the towns of Southampton and Shelter Island and the villages of North Haven and East Hampton, among others.

The county will work with each local government to share tick and tick-borne illness data, create individualized programs to help combat the tick problem in their area and save costs through bulk purchasing and collective sample analysis.

With the recent discoveries of the new Asian longhorned tick on Long Island and the new red meat allergy linked to tick bites, along with the consistently high numbers of tick-borne illnesses in the county, officials said they saw this as a very appropriate time to strengthen their fight against ticks to create a healthier community.

In 2017, Suffolk County reported 523 cases of Lyme disease and 226 cases of other tick-borne diseases, including anaplasmosis, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, according to the State Department of Health.

County Legislator Bridget Fleming initially proposed the partnership as a shared services program, according to county officials involved with the initiative. Ms. Fleming, who considers combating the tick problem as one of her top priorities in office, has already been working with several local governments since 2016 through the Suffolk County Tick Control Advisory Committee to guide tick surveillance and control efforts.

“In these times when public resources are scarce, we find it to be more and more effective to work together in public-private partnerships or across municipalities particularly when we’re dealing with regionwide problems,” the legislator said. “The ticks don’t know the political boundaries, so in order to be effective in our efforts to combat this devastating spread of tick-borne illness, we need to have a regionwide approach.”

The new partnership will complement the ongoing efforts of the Tick Control Advisory Committee, which recently received new equipment for the county’s health laboratory and will soon hire a new entomologist, Ms. Fleming said.

When the county’s shared services initiative became effective in January, officials reached out to all local municipalities to see who was interested in joining this specific collective. In addition to those already in the partnership, officials said that other municipalities recently expressed interest in joining as well.

East Hampton Village does not currently conduct any tick mitigation practices, but Village Administrator Becky Hansen said they are open to learning from other local governments on their practices, given this opportunity.

“We certainly want to learn from and maybe partner with other municipalities on some mitigation solutions that would be beneficial to any of our residents,” said Ms. Hansen, who was the village’s point of contact for the shared services program.

The program has two areas of focus. One is to help sustain existing tick mitigation activities in towns and villages that have advanced systems in place, like the towns of Shelter Island and Southampton and the villages of North Haven and Saltaire. Given that North Haven and Shelter Island are both islands with controlled deer and tick populations, it is easy to gauge the effectiveness of current practices and their success in eliminating ticks.

The second focus is to provide necessary resources and best practices to the remaining village partners that did not have the budget to carry out such efforts in the past, county officials said.

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Excellent work by Suffolk County and especially by Legislator Bridget Fleming. I sure don’t want to have to quit eating steak, etc. Thank you, Ms. Fleming.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 14, 19 11:02 AM
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