As some of you know, I have had chronic Lyme disease for some years.
Treatment has put the disease into remission, but I retain a healthy <!>
fear of black-legged ticks (aka "deer ticks"), which are the primary vector
of Lyme and other diseases here in the NE.

I keep up with information about Lyme throughout the country.  I wanted to
share the letter below with you, for thought and consideration.  While I
don't agree with everything the writer says, he brings up an important
consideration.  Bird may be a significant factor in the transport of
infected ticks; not enough is known yet to say to what degree.

When I was too ill to get out, I kept birdhouses close by my home, but
eventually stopped, partly for the reasons explained in the letter below
(though also because of marauding neighborhood cats).  I am still planting a
"bird garden", but am very much aware that most people infected with Lyme
contract the disease in their own back yards.

Another point:  though deer ticks will feed on deer for a final blood meal,
they do not contract Lyme disease from them.  The nymph form contracts the
disease from the ubiquitous white footed mouse and other rodents (though,
ironically, perhaps not squirrels!). The absence of deer means that nymph
and adult ticks will grab the most available large mammals around--
frequently dogs and humans.   Nymphs are the most likely form of the tick to
pass on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases to humans.  You are most likely
to encounter deer ticks in moist brushy and long grass areas-- exactly the
kinds of places we so often find ourselves when birding!

I don't want to alarm anyone, just raise your awareness.  Prevention is the
best way to avoid problems. So practice healthy birding: wear long pants,
tuck the bottoms in socks, wear long sleeves and light colored clothing.
Putting clothing in the dryer immediately for 10-15 minutes on high will
kill ticks by dessication (they can survive washing with hot water).

Most important, do a *thorough* tick check.  Feel is often the best way to
find ticks-- be sure to check all crevices and folds of skin.  If you can,
have someone check your back or use a mirror.  Unengorged adult deer ticks
are about the size of a sesame seed, only dark brown with a reddish edge.
Engorged adults look very much like a small watermelon seed.  Nymphs look
like a freckle with legs, and are about the size of a period.  Engorged,
they might feel like a hard piece of sand attached to your skin.

Pets should be checked too.  The incidence of Lyme among dogs in VT is high,
as many as 1 in 7 according to a survey done by veterinarians.

Dayle Ann Stratton,
Vermont Lyme Information Resource

For more info:

----- Original Message -----
From: "lymeinfo" <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, April 29, 2005 10:47 AM
Subject: [lymeinfo] Letter: Audubon's shame (NJ)

> The Star Ledger  (NJ)
> Letters
> Tuesday, April 26, 2005
> Audubon's shame
> Shame on the Audubon Society for urging state wildlife authorities
> to kill more deer because "hunting policies are geared too much
> toward keeping enough deer around for sports hunters rather than
> seriously reducing the state's herd."
> Daniel Cameron, chief author of guidelines on the prevention and
> management of chronic Lyme disease, writes that the most effective
> way to fight the disease is not to eliminate deer but a beloved
> fixture of suburban yards: the bird feeder. He said that "all 27
> species of birds in one Connecticut study carried the ticks that
> cause Lyme."
> Perhaps the Audubon Society should consider a call to kill all 27
> species because they carry the ticks. Instead, the society is
> calling for New Jersey's open space to be a "silent spring," with no
> deer but plenty of native plants.
> -- Carol Rivielle, West Orange