JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE CONTROL OF LYME DISEASE.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Environment Committee; the Connecticut Coalition to Eradicate Lyme Disease.
REASONS FOR BILL:
Many are concerned about the size of the deer population in Connecticut, especially the impact on the rate of Lyme disease. The bill states that DEP and DPH shall work together to develop a program to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease in the state. The substitute language includes the CT Agricultural Experiment Station in the development and implementation process of the bill.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Richard Edmonds, Chief, Public Health Initiatives Branch, DPH states that Connecticut is among the states with the highest Lyme disease rates. The prevention and control of the disease requires a multi-agency response. He cites the state response to eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus transmitted by mosquitoes as an example of a program where an interagency state working group was formed to tackle a similar problem. The Department recommends an Integrated Pest Management program to reduce disease vectors in targeted environments. He suggests that habitat modification, pesticide application and exclusion of host and reservoir animals can have a significant impact on the occurrence of Lyme disease as well as others. The Department supports the intent of the bill, as well as including the CT Agricultural Experiment Station. They also ask for the adoption of an Integrated Pest Management approach, which allows for a collaboration of state and local agencies.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Rudy Marconi, Ridgefield First Selectman supports this bill. He is concerned about the devastating effect of Lyme disease on families in his town, as 36% of households in Ridgefield have been impacted by Lyme disease. Also, the effect of deer overpopulation is of concern because of the high rate of deer-vehicle collisions. In Ridgefield they have launched a campaign to reduce the deer population, in part in order to reduce high levels of Lyme disease. They feel that they need state action in order to effectively battle these issues.
Maggie Shaw, RN supports this bill. All five members of her family have been infected with tick-borne diseases. She chairs the Newtown Lyme Disease Task Force. She cites many statistics about how widespread the disease has become, including saying that in 2007 a Newtown survey expert concluded that eighty percent of households responding to a broad town wide survey said at least one member had suffered a tick bite, and forty-eight percent said someone in their household had been treated for Lyme disease. She feels the state has done little to respond to this public health crisis, and that deer reduction and education is the way to solve this problem.
Peter R. Knight, Westport, CT supports this bill principally because of the devastating effect of Lyme disease on families and the belief that if we can avoid this tragedy, it is our moral obligation to do so. He is also concerned about the damaging effects of deer-vehicle collisions, including car damage, injury, and loss of life. Thirdly, he is concerned about the effect of overgrazing on the quality of life, including the effect on his personal property and the forests. He believes fencing only pushes the problem into someone else's yard and that we must reduce the population in order to fix these problems.
Terry Savery J.D., Chair, Connecticut Coalition to Eradicate Lyme Disease supports this bill because of the devastating effects of the disease on citizens, especially children. He cites examples of other areas, such as Cape Cod, where Lyme disease has been eradicated. He quotes and DPH expert who said that “personal protection” has failed to stop the spread or growth of the Lyme disease epidemic. He also discusses Mumford Cove, CT which rapidly ended its epidemic, demonstrated by a drop of 94% of new cases between 1998 and 2003, through a deer reduction program.
Sharon Epstein, President, The Redding Garden Club supports this bill out of concern about the increasing rate of Lyme disease and the environmental destruction cause by deer. The fear that personal efforts cannot prevent tick bites, many have changed the way they interact with nature and the amount of time children spend outdoors. She is also concerned about the use of pesticides that are used to maintain tick free zones that end up in the water. Also, the loss of native wildflowers and shrubs and the thinning of woodlands due to deer is of concern.
Kirby Stafford III, Vice Director, Chief Entomologist, State Entomologist, CT Agricultural Experiment Station supports this bill. His research for the past 20 years has focused on the control of the deer tick that is responsible for the transmission of the pathogens that cause Lyme disease in CT. He associates the emergence of Lyme disease with landscape changes and the increase in abundance of white-tailed deer. He conducted a study in Bridgeport and the Bluff Point Costal Preserve where deer were reduced from around 200 animals per square mile to around 20-30 per square mile. In the area, ticks are 10-fold less than before. Other studies show that areas without deer harbor very few ticks and little or no infection of Lyme disease. He concludes that a level below 10-12 deer per square mile could decrease the tick population enough to reduce the burden of Lyme disease in a community.
Mark L. Friedman, MD supports this bill as a student of Lyme disease for more than thirty years and a physician. Connecticut is one of 10 states that account for 95% of reported cases, and is first in the nation in incidence of infection. He lists the devastating effects of Lyme disease left untreated, including muscle wasting, meningitis and other serious diseases of the heart and central nervous system. He states that the science is clear that deer are necessary to support the ticks that transmit the disease and that we must reduce the deer population in order to eradicate Lyme disease.
Stephen R. Patton, Director of Landscape Programs, The Nature Conservancy supports this bill. He is concerned about the effects of deer on the ecology of Connecticut's forests. He states that the current population of deer in the state is now in many places two to six times larger than what our forests can sustain over the long term. Wildflowers and other plants have been nearly eliminated. Deer overabundance simplifies the ecology of forests by eliminating many of the plants that cannot tolerate repeated grazing. They recommend that DEP reevaluate Connecticut's deer management program, establish goals for forest health and set goals for reducing Lyme disease, and consider incentives to increase the annual harvest of deer and reduce the deer population.
David Charash, CT College of Emergency Physicians supports this bill because on the frontline for patients who are seriously ill or injured, he regularly sees patients suffering from symptoms of Lyme disease and also the victims of car collisions with deer. He states that the concept of reducing deer in order to eradicate Lyme and other tick borne diseases is scientifically sound and the benefits for CT residents are clear.
Georgina Scholl MD, Connecticut Coalition to Eradicate Lyme Disease supports this bill. She states that there is ample evidence that ticks need a high deer population in order to thrive and survive. She cites research that says when there are too few deer in a region, the ticks do not produce the next generation of ticks and they start to die out. She states that in studies where deer levels were brought low enough, ticks die out beginning the year after deer are reduced and 2 years later Lyme disease cases fall to virtually zero. She does not feel that personal prevention is sufficient. The following people are also included in the testimony, supporting the bill:
Woody Bliss, Chairman and First Selectman of Weston
Joseph W. Jaskiewicz, Vice Chairman, Southeastern CT Council of Governments
Barton Russel, Executive Director, CT Council of Small Towns
Milan G. Bull, Snr. Director of Science and Conservation, CT Audubon Society
Matthew Miller, MD, Danbury Hospital
Natalie Ketcham, First Selectman, Town of Redding
Monte Frank, Town of Danbury, supports this bill. It is important to do whatever we can so that other families are spaced in the future. He suffers from a complete heart block and was lucky to have survived and have this treated in time. With the passage of this bill will prevent this kind of issue from coming up again.
Jack S. C. Fong, MD, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Danbury Hospital supports this bill because of his awareness of the impact of Lyme disease on children. He notes that at a monthly meeting of the Department of Pediatrics the motion for the Department to endorse the Connecticut Coalition to Eradicate Lyme disease carried unanimously. He states that prevention trumps treatment.
Representative Michael Alberts supports this bill as he believes more can be done to prevent the spread of Lyme disease. He states that the bill is comprehensive in including three key elements: reducing deer population, increasing public awareness of the causes and prevention of the disease, and provide assistance to municipalities who already have a high concentration of Lyme disease.
Dr. George T. Heinmann, Jr. supports the bill. He has suffered the debilitating effects of Lyme disease which progressed to the third stage. He suffers from neurocognitive deficits and multiple radicular and peripheral neuropathies and was forced to give up his dental practice at the height of his career as a result.
Tara P. Hixson, Ph.D., Clinical Psychology supports this comprehensive bill as she believes a statewide approach is necessary to reduce deer population and incidence of Lyme disease. Her family has been affected by Lyme disease, despite the various personal measures they have taken to prevent it. She expresses concern that her children and others will not be able to play and explore outdoors without fear of the disease.
W. Kent Haydock, Chair, Darien Deer Management Committee supports this bill because he feels far more needs to be done by legislators to inform families and yard workers throughout the state on Lyme disease.
Daniel Liu B.S. R. Ph. supports this bill as a pharmacist with personal experience with Lyme disease. He has suffered from severe headaches and Bell's palsy as a result of the disease. He also contracted bilateral Lyme arthritis of the knees. He wants the root cause of the problem – the deer population that spreads ticks – to be addressed and feels that the message from the State regarding the connection is not clear.
Ruth Epstein, First Selectman, Kent, CT supports this bill on behalf of the Kent Board of Selectmen, which has voted to endorse the concept of deer management in an effort to help eradicate Lyme disease. She states that the State should play a leading rile in raising public awareness that eradication can aid in reducing the problem.
Russell Cornelius supports this bill. He states that his Rotary has been active in educating the public about this issue since 2000.
Claudio Rodrigo, New Fairfield, CT supports this bill because he is concerned about the absence of comprehensive direction from the sate on deer overpopulation. He does not feel that the message from the state regarding the connection between deer population and Lyme disease is clear.
Patricia Sesto, Chairman, Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance supports this bill. She believes it is important for the state to send a clear message regarding deer overabundance that would be incorporated into an overall Lyme disease management plan. She believes DEP has done a great deal in educating the public, but that other agencies need to join the effort.
Tony Neidenbach, Easton, CT supports the bill as a representative of the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance. He states that there is a correlation between deer population and Lyme disease and that CT residents need to be better educated about the facts surrounding this. He compares the plan to the Mosquito Management Plan to monitor the populations for the prevalence of infective agents that can cause West Nile Disease.
Donna M. Culbert, Director, Newton District Department of Health supports this bill. She believes in maintaining the deer populations at low levels, increasing public awareness of the causes and prevention of Lyme disease and assistance to municipalities with high incidence of the disease.
Christopher J. Michos, MD, Town of Easton Health Director supports this bill. He believes that the root cause of the Lyme epidemic in our state is the deer population, which plays a key role in the lifecycle of deer ticks that transmit the disease to humans.
David P. Delia supports this bill as an owner and operator of a tree care and landscape company in Redding, CT. The rise of deer populations has affected his business and the health of his family. He is limited in what he can plant because plants must be “deer resistant” or they must be sprayed with chemicals. He is concerned about the pesticides being used around his children. He has had Lyme disease, as have his children and employees. He feels it is unfortunate that children are being discouraged from playing outside.
Susan Byron, Weston, CT supports this bill as both of her children have been affected with Lyme disease, and her daughter had to miss a lot of school growing up as a result. She states the government must do its part in fighting this plague.
Sam R. Telford, Associate Professor, Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine supports this bill and recognizes the importance of deer reduction in prevention of Lyme disease. He states that the scientific research strongly supports the role of deer as the main determinant of tick density, which is directly related to risk. He compares the control of Lyme disease to the control of West Nile virus as others have. He also states that deer reduction by hunting is the most likely method to be sustained by the community because it does not require public or private funding. It lessens the burden on health systems as well.
Gail Bishop, Redding, CT supports deer reduction because she believes we must take responsible action to salvage and restore a beautiful and healthy natural environment that supports more than one species. She wants public awareness raised in order to reach an effective solution.
Kathy Frederick, CT Coalition to Eradicate Lyme Disease, Woodstock supports this bill because she is concerned about the effects of Lyme disease. Her and her husband run a camp ground and see the risk of exposure when campers remove ticks from clothing and/or pets daily. She and her husband have both had Lyme disease.
Margaret Brown, Goshen, CT supports this bill because she believes it is vital to help provide the educational foundation on which municipalities and their citizens can build a plan.
Tom Gormley, First Selectman, Middlebury supports this bill because he has seen friends suffer from this disease and wants the issue addressed in a forthright manner.
Karen DeSantis, Redding, CT supports this bill as a woman diagnosed with Lyme disease. She reflects opinions of others above.
Elliot Davis, President, Washington Environmental Council, supports this bill because he believes that the overpopulation of deer is a threat to the environment, because of the high incidence of Lyme disease, the degradation of their local habitat and the rising number of car accidents.
William Brennan, First Selectman, Wilton supports this bill because although the town has taken action to raise public awareness of the link between deer and ticks and Lyme disease, he feels the state's bill is vital. He feels that the public is confused about this and needs education.
Susan Payne, Conservation Commission of the Town of Washington supports this bill because they are concerned about the out-of-control deer population and the resulting Lyme disease.
Jonathan Chew, Executive Director, Housatonic Valley council of Elected Officials supports this bill because he feels that the DEP has made excellent progress with the increase in the deer population, however more needs to be done.
Mary Ann Kleinschmitt, Animal Control Officer, New Canaan, CT supports this bill because she is concerned about the rate of deer-vehicle accidents. She cites statistics that 1.5 million of these collisions occur each year, causing around 200 human deaths, and over $1.1 billion in insurance claims. In 2006 many towns in CT showed an increase in these accidents that was greater than double the number in 2005.
Karen Gaudin, Ridgefield, CT supports this bill, as all four members of her family have been infected with Lyme disease from working and playing in their own yard. Her daughter has suffered debilitating headaches, extreme fatigue, vertigo and cognitive dysfunction. She also points out the devastating financial consequences of this on her family.
Robert T. Crook, Director, CT Coalition of Sportsmen supports this bill. He believes that deer reduction is the only way to end Lyme disease. He also states that by reducing the deer population we can save the native woodlands, wildflowers and songbirds from devastation by unnatural over-populations of deer.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Laura Simon, Field Director for the Urban Wildlife Program, Humane Society US opposes this bill because she does not believe the way to control Lyme disease is to reduce the population of deer. She does not see any scientific validity in the claim that hunting deer reduces the disease; rather she sees evidence that reducing deer will not control this disease. She states that if you reduce the deer population, the tick population will not be reduced because the ticks will host on other animals including white-footed mice and birds. She cites cases such as at Crane's Beach in MA where removing 83% of the deer did not produce a rapid, precipitous decline in immature tick abundance. She also refutes the claims that reducing the population to 10 deer per square mile will eliminate the disease, stating that no data has been published to back this up. She also does not believe you can use examples from islands or peninsulas such as Cape Cod as evidence that reducing deer would reduce Lyme disease in Connecticut, since the environment is very different. She believes that reducing the deer population would actually increase public safety risk in the short-term because ticks searching for a large host are likely to end up on humans.
Reported by: Marissa Kirshenbaum
Date: March 26, 2008