House Bill 5852: (Bill Status) An Act Concerning the Control of Lyme Disease. This bill was intended to create a multi-agency approach to prevention of tick borne diseases, a standard way of approaching effective prevention of vector borne diseases such as Lyme disease, malaria and West Nile Virus. Lyme and the other newer tick borne diseases still have no such state plan for effective prevention and the incidence of Lyme disease continues to rise every year.

If enacted Bill this would have led to a dramatic reduction in Lyme disease cases over a 5 year period, by empowering DPH, DEP and the Ct Ag Experiment Station to work together to develop a policy to solve the population growth of the key host animal that supports the tick population. Unfortunately despite overwhelming support by the Environment Committee and by the Appropriations Committee, the Speaker of the House (Representative James Amann) chose not to call the bill for a vote. Read more about the bill, a summary of all the supporting testimony and see an update of the final bill status.

The statewide Coalition strongly supported HB 5852: An Act Concerning the Control of Lyme Disease. At the Public Hearing on March 10, Dr Kirby Stafford lll PhD Vice Director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station told the Environment Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly that “ a deer density below 10 to 12 deer per sq mile could decrease the tick population to a level that would reduce the burden of Lyme disease in a community.” 22 legislators also lent their names to this bill as co-sponsors.

You can read Dr. Kirby Stafford's full testimony of supporting information for HB 5852 here (click the thumbnail to the right to view letter), or you can watch the hearing online (Dr Stafford speaks at 5:20).

Watch these videos below of witnesses who gave testimony at the Environment Committee Public Hearing on Monday March 10. The Committee voted 27:1 in favor of this much needed bill.

Read the New York Times article printed on 3/23/08, and the April 6 Commentary in The Day about HB 5852 and the urgent need to provide the state with a comprehensive deer management plan

 

Dr Kirby Stafford explains why reducing deer numbers ends Lyme disease. Rudy Marconi - First Selectman of Ridgefield, CT
Dr Mark Friedman, Emergency Physician, Bridgeport. Pat Sesto: the state needs to help

Testimony was given in support of HB 5852 by the following individuals and organizations

"The current level of public confusion fuels controversy and paralyzes progress towards a solution."
-Dr Mark Friedman, Westport, Ct

"...this particular legislation is an example where our ecological objectives coincide
with public health objectives. We recommend that DEP consider a range of new incentives to increase the
annual harvest of deer in Connecticut and reduce the deer population to a level that is
consistent with the goals established for forest health and Lyme Disease" Read full testimony
-Stephen Patton Ph.D., The Nature Conservancy.

"a deer density below 10 to 12 deer per square mile could decrease the tick population to a level that would reduce the burden of Lyme disease in a community."
"Deer population management is an important tool in any long term strategy to reduce tick abundance and the human incidence of Lyme disease."
-Dr. Kirby Stafford lll Ph.D., Chief Entomologist and Vice Director, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Read full testimony

"The public health agencies have a vital role to play in helping people understand the need to achieve a lower deer population in order to end Lyme disease." "Public health policy should be actively planned for the benefit of the entire state, and not affected by a perception that admitting the evidence might cause controversy. Providing free access to the facts of the successes of deer reduction must be intellectually separated from debating possible solutions to the deer problem. With public understanding of the need to reduce deer numbers, the issue loses its controversy. Lack of information from the DPH is currently fueling the controversy and merely helping to sell newspapers."
-Georgina Scholl MD, Vice Chair of Connecticut Coalition to Eradicate Lyme Disease and Research Chair of Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance

"I live in southeastern Groton (Mumford Cove) where, in cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, we have successfully controlled Lyme disease for the past 8 years." The community now enjoys the open space and nature they are surrounded by without threat of tick borne diseases.
-Sue Sutherland, Chair of Wildlife Committee, Groton, Ct. Read additional testimony

"A unique study revealing > 90% reduction in questing ticks has demonstrated the quintessential role of the deer host in the maintenance of deer tick populations. In addition, mainland [deer density] surveys have demonstrated a strong, positive relationship between deer presence and tick abundance, with few ticks found below deer densities of approximately 15 deer/mi2.
"Because the abundance of ticks is directly related to the abundance of deer, herd reduction represents an extremely important and effective method to reduce the risk of Lyme disease, particularly in populated areas where deer ticks are established and local ordinances and posted properties allow deer herds to burgeon."
-Peter W. Rand, MD, Co-Director, Vector-borne Disease Laboratory, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

"Only with effective political leadership, can the State agencies be empowered to develop a program to control the deer population and thus contain the risks it poses to public health and safety."
-Peter R. Knight, Wesport

"Nantucket has a tremendous problem with tick borne diseases. For a small island, we probably have the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the world. The reintroduction of deer created a perfect storm of disease and damage to the landscape. There are now deer on Main Street, in the hospital parking lot, and in Senator Kerry's backyard. Lyme disease depends on high deer numbers and it can be ended by reducing deer numbers. Connecticut can set a great example for other states and even our poor benighted island by having elected officials worry about the health of their citizens rather than their popularity with vocal organized but misinformed special interest groups. I hope Connecticut can avoid this tragedy and enact a policy regarding deer control that protects the public health of the citizens."
-Timothy J. Lepore, MD, FACS, Nantucket Cottage Hospital

"Bird species such as Golden-winged Warbler, Brown Thrasher and Yellow-breasted Chat, currently listed as Threatened or Endangered in Connecticut are a few of our songbirds that are impacted by deer over browsing. We urge the Committee to consider H.B. 5852 as an important first step in restoring our wildlife communities. Unless there is a significant reduction of deer in those areas by identified by DEP biologists as overpopulated, deer will continue to restructure forest communities and there will be a continual decline in the diversity of birds and other wildlife in our state." Read full testimony
-Milan G. Bull Senior Director of Science and Conservation, Connecticut Audubon Society.

Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials represents the Chief Elected Officials of ten towns in Fairfield County. HVCEO support this bill. They say the state has set a policy direction on West Nile but not on Lyme prevention. The lack of factual information coming out of DPH is handicapping efforts of our towns to control deer populations and therefore tick numbers and Lyme disease. The state needs to recommend that DPH and DEP work together to create a tick borne disease prevention goal. Read testimony

William Sawch, Weston, CT supports this bill. He feels that Lyme disease is a tragic and needless consequence of confusion and emotion obscuring the scientific evidence of the deer overpopulation / Lyme correlation. He requests that government make an honest assessment of the issues and determine solutions that represent the best interests of the majority. Read testimony

"I write as a research scientist and public health educator with 20 years of experience in Lyme disease ecology and epidemiology. I am delighted that the Enviornment Committee is considering a bill (#5852) that may promote reducing the risk of Connecticut citizens acquiring Lyme disease, and wish to emphasize the importance of deer reduction in achieving this objective."
"Risk for Lyme disease thus depends on the production of ticks, for which deer are responsible; and infection of the immature ticks mainly upon mice. As we reduce risk for West Nile virus by reducing the breeding sources of mosquitoes, so too must we reduce the source of ticks if we hope to reduce the risk of Lyme disease." Read testimony
-Sam Telford lll Sc.D. Associate Professor, Tufts University and Harvard School of Public Health

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A Lyme Prevention Forum was organized by the Legislative Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly on December 18th 2007. The proceedings are available for "On Demand" viewing at this site: http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ondemand.asp?byDate=12/18/2007 
Speakers included Pat Sesto, Chairman of the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance, Dr. Kirby Stafford, PhD, national tick expert, Dr. Matthew Cartter of Ct DPH, and Durland Fish, Scientific Advisor to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

Let your legislators know how concerned you are about the increasing number of cases of Lyme disease each year in Connecticut by contacting your state legislators. Addresses and emails of the Connecticut Public Health Committee senators and representatives are available on the following website and your own local rep or senator can be found on this page.

This forum was requested by the Co-Chairs of the Public Health Committee as a result of various Lyme disease prevention related legislative initiatives that failed to make progress in the legislature over the last 3 years. They are giving this issue another chance by holding this forum.  Physicians and health officers need to let the legislators know that we are concerned about the lack of effective prevention of tick borne diseases and are interested in looking at methods other than "personal protection" and "staying in the tick safe zone". We need methods that can benefit entire communities such as getting the number of the key animal host (white tailed deer) back into balance and thereby breaking the tick life cycle. There were representatives from the Wildlife division of DEP and from the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance (Chairman, Pat Sesto) as invited panel members. Lets give the Public Health Committee the support they need to take this prevention option seriously. Watch the evidence presented by Pat Sesto, Dr Stafford and DEP that several communities in Connecticut and New England have chosen to reduce their deer densities and as a result have effectively reduced Lyme by 90 to 100% in their communities. Give this prevention method a chance by asking for general public awareness that this is the most effective and indeed only method that has ever reduced Lyme case numbers in any community. Personal protection has so far failed to lower Lyme case numbers. According to the CDC estimates, the true number of physician confirmed Lyme cases is now on the order of 20,000 to 29,000 a year in Connecticut alone.

Footnotes:
Economic Survey Bernards Township NJ
Bokhour Arno article
State Farm CNN Money article

 

Lyme Eradication is on HVCEO Legislative Agenda 2008

The Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO), representing the Chief Elected Officials of 10 towns, have written a letter to Governor Rell asking for a public awareness campaign that the Lyme epidemic can be ended by deer population control and for better state coordination of Lyme prevention and deer population management. They have added this issue to their own legislative agenda for 2008. See http://www.hvceo.org/legisagenda.php

 

ISSUES FOR 2008
REDUCE LYME DISEASE THRU
COORDINATION OF DEP AND DPH
Legislators are asked to consider the suggestions made by HVCEO members in this September 21, 2007 (abridged) letter to Governor Rell:

We are writing to you in our role as chief elected officials of Connecticut municipalities that have been badly affected by deer overpopulation. Many of us are struggling with the issue of how best to alleviate the consequences of excess deer and some of us are trying to implement deer population control programs.

The State has effectively promoted the aggressive control of mosquito populations in order to combat West Nile Disease, but has failed to exert an equivalent effort to control deer populations in order to combat Lyme Disease.

The fact that communities in Maine and Connecticut have been able to dramatically reduce their tick populations and Lyme Disease rates by reducing their deer populations would be a powerful and yet straightforward fact to add to the state Department of Public Health's Lyme prevention educational material.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics indicate approximately 25,000 new cases of physician confirmed Lyme Disease in Connecticut in 2005. Public health is perhaps the most important reason to want to get deer numbers under control but DEP feels they are not qualified to take on the role of public health educators- that should be the role of DPH.

So here we have a dilemma: DPH regards deer as the province of the DEP (despite the fact that deer are the critical animal hosts to the tick vector that spreads the disease to humans) and DEP regards health education as the province of DPH.

Map of Lyme cases: Lyme Disease is our problem

However, if your office would set a policy direction and recommend that these two agencies work together on getting more information out to the public and perhaps setting a tick borne disease prevention goal to be implemented by DEP, then DEP could do a much more effective job at helping our communities avoid all the diseases spread by deer ticks.

The environmental damage being wrought by deer is an ongoing tragedy in our more rural towns where we have struggled for years to preserve open space only to see its ecological value degraded by deer over browsing and loss of native species while invasives are given a leg up by the deer themselves.

We recognize and appreciate your commitment to public health as indicated by your recent letter of concern to us on West Nile Virus and we respectfully ask that you now take a leadership role with the appropriate state agencies to combat Lyme Disease in the State of Connecticut

 

Q: How safe is hunting as a deer reduction method? What is the safety record for Connecticut?

The following answer is provided by the State's Hunter Safety Program Administrator and Wildlife Biologist, Mark Clavette

A: Hunting is among the safest of all outdoor activites and has one of the lowest accident rates for all forms of outdoor recreation. Hunting accidents are rare and most injuries while hunting are self-inflicted or involve members of the same hunting party. The safety record of hunters has improved substantially over the years due in large part to mandatory hunter education which has produced an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters. The latest data from the International Hunter Education Association indicate a national rate of 6 hunting related firearms accidents per 100,000 hunters.

Connecticut enjoys one of the best safety records among the states. In a 24 year period, Connecticut has had an average of 4 accidents (all reported injuries while hunting) per year. The last several years there were one or two accidents reported. This is among some 60,000 firearms hunters and 13,000 archery hunters, who spend a conservative estimate of 789,000+ days afield each year during the various seasons.

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