Deer Ticks: What NCA Is Doing

Tick-Borne Diseases (TBD) are having an impact on the residents of the Island as well as its visitors. TBDs are a contemporary Public Health problem that started in the Northeast but is presently expanding to the West and South. The diseases, Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis (formerly Ehrlichiosis) can cause significant morbidity and can lead to death especially in cases of  Babesiosis. Many who contract TBD are effectively treated with antibiotics although a number may have endured difficult symptoms. The blacklegged tick, the vector of the causative bacteria and parasites, feeds on the white-footed mouse and the white-tailed deer and then infects humans, transmitting the bacteria and parasites. Nantucket, with its large deer herd (50 per square mile) due to lack of predators and extensive areas for feeding, has one of the highest incidences of disease in the Northeast.

NCA has been working with other community groups and directed its concerns on this matter to the Board of Selectmen. At the NCA sponsored Summer Forums since 2008, the community brought the issue of TBD to the forefront of the Selectmen’s attention. Due to the public’s concerns, the TBD Committee of Nantucket, an ad hoc committee of the Town reporting to the Board of Health, was initiated and appointed to investigate this problem and potential actions that may be taken to address it. Two members of the TBD Committee, Helene Weld, R.N. and Bruce Hopper, M.D., are Directors of NCA. Click here to review the report of the TBD Committee.

Very generally summarized, the report of the TBD Committee recommended the following courses of action: managed deer reduction, vegetation management, prudent use of pesticides, public education and development of an improved surveillance system to measure the incidence of infection on the Island. These recommendations were supported by the passage of a non-binding referendum by Town voters on April 13, 2010.

The aim of NCA in regard to TBD is to continue to monitor the ongoing work of the TBD Committee of Nantucket, actively search for solutions to this important problem, help in educating and raising the awareness of the problem, and monitoring the incidence of the diseases on Nantucket. An educational pamphlet is being distributed by NCA to help educate visitors regarding the diseases and preventive measures that can be taken to help prevent the diseases. NCA has also assisted in the investigation of the size of the deer herd on the island by helping to fund infrared aerial photographs of the island. This will be an on-going effort of NCA.