A new environmentally friendly device developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has been found to be effective in lowering the potential transmission of Lyme Disease. The device, known as the “4-poster" Deer Treatment Bait Station, was shown to reduce the number of ticks infected with Lyme Disease by as much as 70% during the summer months, when disease is most prevalent. According to epidemiologists, this should translate into a commensurate decrease in the incidence of the disease in people.

The study was sponsored by the USDA and took place over the course of seven years, covering New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, the five Northeastern states where the disease is thought to be most endemic, although it is a problem all over the United States, even in places people usually do not believe Lyme disease exists.

The stations works by luring the deer with corn placed in a bin. In order to access the food, the deer must insert its head through four paint rollers that are laden with the insecticide acaricide. As a consequence, the chemical is applied to head, neck, and ears of the animal, which is then spread to the entire body following subsequent grooming. The insecticide then goes on to kill the ticks.

Experts predict that the device could be even more effective, upwards of 90%, if newer and more effective insecticides were used that were not available at the beginning of the study.

Humans get Lyme disease when they are bitten by the black legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, which carries the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, that it contracts from deer. There are many other co-infections (other infections the tick has that it transmits) which go along with Lyme and also cause serious problems.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there were 28,921 confirmed cases and 6,277 probable cases of Lyme disease in this country. However, that is believed to be grossly underestimated.

The disease is commonly diagnosed based on symptoms, which might include fever-like symptoms and headaches, as well as the characteristic “bulls-eye” skin rash. Unfortunately, symptoms can be so varied and only a small percentage ever get the rash so it's often misdiagnosed by physicians that are not educated on the disease. The infection can be confirmed by the identifying the bacterium in a patient’s blood, but this is not the best way as there is very little federal funding for the issue which have left testing accuracy far behind what it should be. To obtain accurate results, one must have their blood sent to a tick born specialty lab, like IgeneX Inc. in California, which has more stringent testing for all tick borne illnesses. The best way to be sure of a diagnosis is to find a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) by visiting the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.

Left untreated, the infection can spread throughout the body, affecting the heart, joints, and nervous system. However, if it is detected early enough, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Prevention is best accomplished through the use of barriers to the skin (i.e., clothes) as well as insect repellents like DEET. If a person is bitten by a tick, removal immediately is important. However, the disease can still be transmitted.

For this reason, it is important to regularly check for ticks after time spent outside, especially with children and during the warm summer months. If you find a tick, consult your physician for proper removal, or check out the CDC’s website on tick removal for more information.