Lyme disease: Common in the Commonwealth
by: Scott Vitale – March 30, 2012
From Courtney Johnson’s back deck in Westborough, you can see a neatly manicured lawn gently sloping into woodland perimeter. Birds flit about her feeder while a flock of turkeys languidly pass from the neighbor’s yard to hers.
“All I see back here is the tick zone,” she said.
Johnson was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1999, after weeks of inexplicable joint pain, cramps, fever and flu-like symptoms following a weekend camping trip while at college in Amherst. The onset of her symptoms was quick – within just a few days of her camping trip, she said. “I felt lethargic and arthritic. I knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
Johnson underwent a battery of medical testing. All were inconclusive. Since she didn’t experience the “bullseye” shaped ring anywhere on her body, doctors were baffled. Johnson’s father read a news story and recommended she be tested for Lyme disease. The additional testing and subsequent diagnosis was right on. She began a 6-week course of antibiotics including Amoxicillin and Doxycycline immediately following, she said. “The associated pain was debilitating – I’m glad it’s over, and grateful to have had the correct diagnosis,” she said.
Not everyone is as fortunate. Many cases of the disease go unreported, undiagnosed and untreated, according to a letter from David Linsky, Chairman of the Massachusetts’ House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight. Based on the numbers reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the incidences of Lyme disease recorded have increased every year since 2005. The last reportable data, which is based on the reported cases in 2009, indicates that to date 4,045 cases of the disease have been reported to the MDPH for 2009.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted from infected nymph and Deer ticks, Ixodes Scapularis, to their hosts. The tick must be attached to a human for at least 24 hours for the bacteria to spread. Lyme disease most commonly affects the New England states, but is prevalent in the upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic states as well. Lyme disease has been recorded in every city and town in Massachusetts, according to the MDPH.
|Adult Deer Tick||Tick Nymph (Left)|
|Bristol and Plymouth||497||432||632||697||620|
|Cape Cod Counties||355||253||386||277||252|
|Suffolk & Middlesex||509||544||753||834||702|
The transmission of the disease can happen any time of year. While nymphs are the most aggressive feeders and typically more active in spring up until July, adult deer ticks are the most active during the fall and when winter temperatures are above freezing. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed, while adult deer ticks are about the size of a sesame seed. The forecast is for an increase in the prevalence of MA tick populations due to winter temperature alone. The 2011-12 winter was the 2nd warmest and the 2nd least snowy on record, according to the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory.
Tick Control Methods
Controlling the environments in which ticks travel and thrive is important, since nearly always they “hitch a ride” on unsuspecting hosts. The overabundance of deer in the northeast is associated with the rising incidence of Lyme disease. More deer means a more efficient mode of travel for ticks. It is estimated that 90% of adult ticks feed on deer, each laying approximately 3,000 eggs. Deer are the vehicle for the female ticks which arrive closer to human populations to further feed on smaller animals and oftentimes, humans according to Kirby C. Stafford’s “Tick Management Handbook.” Deer management options include deer fencing, repellents and population reduction. The white-footed mouse is generally the most abundant and efficient animal host for the Lyme disease bacteria, so controlling these rodents via chemical or cultural controls must also be considered.
|Deer can carry ticks||Mice can also carry ticks|
Reduce the habitat by altering landscapes to increase sunlight and lower humidity to create a less hospitable environment for ticks. It might mean removing plants and creating more hardscapes such as a patio or widening driveways or walkways. This approach reduces tick habitat cover and can enhance a yard or garden’s focal area. Remove brush and decaying wood piles where smaller rodents may build nests.
Chemical intervention using an acaricide should focus on the early control of ticks in their nymphal stage, usually in the spring. Spraying the lawn, woodland perimeter and near tick hot-spots from May to September can minimize tick pressures, according to Stafford. Bait boxes that treat wild rodents are now available for home use. When properly used, these boxes have been shown to reduce ticks around homes by more than 50%, according to Stafford.
When outside during times of the year when ticks are the most prevalent, or walking woodland trails, wear light-colored long sleeves and tuck pants into your socks. Consider wearing a hat to minimize exposure to your head. Use a repellent containing DEET or permethrin and always follow label directions for use. Pet owners should consult their veterinarians about tick management options, such as insecticidal collars or topically applied repellents. Pets, too can be infected with Lyme disease as well as become carriers of ticks into your home.
|Dangerous rashes can form from ticks|
After spending time outdoors or near an area likely to have ticks, check yourself, your children and your pets. Ticks attached to the body should be removed as soon as possible, using fine-point tweezers. If possible, save the tick for testing for Lyme disease. Then monitor closely, and see your physician. Note any rash, being especially vigilant for a “bulls-eye” rash which often, but not always indicates infection.
Nonprofit donates cleats to high school
Noon Turf Care of Hudson has created the nonprofit Cleats by Noon to provide new athletic shoes and cleats to youth sports teams.
Christopher and Matthew Noon, co-owners of the 10-year-old lawn care business, said their first donation was to the Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School girls’ and boys’ lacrosse teams. Both men graduated from the school and played on sports teams there 15 years ago.
They donated 35 pairs of shoes and cleats to the teams.
“I played soccer and lacrosse growing up,” said Christopher Noon, company president. “There was a fee to play sports, but the gear — shoes and cleats can cost as much as $150 to $200.” Mr. Noon said the nonprofit plans to donate shoes and cleats to the school’s soccer teams in the fall.
Last year, Inc. magazine named Noon Turf Care No. 1,747 on its list of 5,000 fastest-growing companies. The business employs 40.
Crabgrass Equals Crabby Clients
Large crabgrass (Digitaria Ishaemum), a summer annual, is a member of the grass family. It is one of the most troublesome weeds in lawns. Crabgrass reproduces by seeds. It has a prolific tillering or branching habit. A single plant is capable of producing 150 to 700 tillers and 150,000 seeds. Crabgrass plants are very adaptive to mowing height. Plants can produce seeds at mowing heights as low as 1/2-inch. Crabgrass germination is related to soil temperature. When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees F, crabgrass begins to germinate. However, the soil temperature must be in this range at least for a week. Seeds germinate best from early spring to late summer. Crabgrass seeds are dormant for a short period of time after they shed from plants. Crabgrass continues to grow until midsummer when days become shorter, and vegetative growth slows as plants enter their reproductive stage. Purplish seed heads form until frost kills the plants. Plants that emerge early in the season and have a long period of vegetative growth are much larger and more competitive than plants that germinate late in the season.
The basic principle of a crabgrass control program is to prevent reinfestation by seeds. Controlling seed production for several years will help reduce the viable seed supply. Crabgrass cannot be controlled in one growing season because of the great number of viable seeds that accumulate in the soil from years of infestation. A good weed management program in lawns is one that consists of both recommended cultural practices and the use of herbicides as appropriate for the control of any given species. Satisfactory control may require several seasons of conscientious adherence to a good control program.
Establishing a dense and healthy stand of turfgrass is the best way to control crabgrass and other annual weeds, including grasses and broad-leaf weeds. The proper mowing height and frequency, fertilization and irrigation are part of the weed control program and should be practiced throughout the growing season.
- Seed in late summer for new lawns. Crabgrass and other annual grasses that germinate in late summer will be killed by frosts in October or November.
- Mow your lawn to a height of 2 to 3 inches. The taller grass shades the soil and keeps soil cool. Crabgrass seeds do not germinate under cool conditions. Adjust your cutting height as appropriate for the turfgrass species.
- Water heavily once a week and avoid frequent light irrigation.
- Avoid summer fertilization. Crabgrass benefits more from fertilizer application under high temperatures than Kentucky bluegrass and other cool season grasses.
Crabgrass can be selectively controlled in turfgrass areas by judicious use of preemergence or postemergence herbicides. Timing is important for herbicide application. The best time for preemergent application of herbicides is late April or early May. Postemergent herbicides can be used when crabgrass is in the 2- to 5-leaf stage. Repeat applications may be required depending upon the treatments.
Use caution when seeding a new lawn in the spring. Only use a crabgrass preemergent control containing Siduron as it will not kill desirable grass seeds (other crabgrass preemergent controls will).
Iron-Clad Results for Turf
As New England turfgrasses emerge from winter dormancy, micronutrients such as iron become increasingly important. Iron is one of the best ways to give lawns that rich, deep, dark-green color. In fact, it’s iron that makes Kentucky Bluegerass “blue.” A spring iron application surely sets your lawn apart from others in the neighborhood!
Iron may also be used to correct soil deficiencies and is considered a viable organic alternative to synthetic nitrogen. While nitrogen helps give the turf its green color, it also pushes growth. So if your lawn is a dull yellow during the height of the growing season, it’s likely your turf could use a shot of iron.
The Importance of Soil Testing
The soil test is an important measure of the soil’s ability to supply nutrient elements needed for good plant growth. The test also tells how much lime (calcium) is needed to establish the most desirable soil pH for the plants or turfgrass to be grown. Many soil tests reveal available trace nutrients required for optimal plant or turfgrass health.
Soils constantly undergo change. The quantity and availability of plant nutrient elements in the soil change as a result of removal by the growing or harvested crop, leaching, erosion, or the addition of fertilizer, manure or compost. The soil test reveals the current fertility status and provides the information necessary to maintain the optimum fertility conditions for grass plants to be grown.
Many plants and certain grasses grow well over a wide range of soil pH when other growing conditions are good. Some plants, however, grow best within a narrow range of pH. The only way to determine whether the soil is acid, neutral, or alkaline (pH) is by a soil test.
Most turf grasses, flowers, ornamental shrubs, and vegetables grow best in slightly acid soils of pH 6.1 to 6.9. Some plants require an acid soil to grow best. These include rhododendron, azalea, pieris, mountain laurel, and some wild flowers. The availability of most nutrient elements is greatest at a pH near 6.5. When the pH rises above this value, trace elements such as iron, manganese, copper and zinc become less available to the plant.
Welcome New SFN Sponsor – Noon Turf Care!
mollylogan, 3/5/2012 10:28 am
Please check out our new sponsor, Noon Turf Care!
Noon Turf Care was started over 10 years ago by brothers Christopher and Matthew Noon as a way to earn money to pay for their college educations. Upon graduation, Chris and Matt saw a demand for a lawn care company that could provide customers with a true service experience beyond simply fertilizing their lawns. Immediately they began to expand Noon Turf Care to provide customers with a larger selection services.
Today, Noon Turf Care employs over forty green industry professionals from office administration to outside field technicians. Chris and Matt value education and that is why employees and lawn technicians are required to attend paid green industry classes and conventions to stay current on the latest certifications.
Noon Turf Care aims at providing exceptional lawn care services to its customers through a professional and dedicated staff and superior lawn products. The company offers services such as lawn fertilization, tree and shrub care, organic fertilization, flea and tick control, perimeter pest control and various additional services, including grub control, lime, aeration and seeding.
Noon Brothers Announce their Non-Profit Creation “Cleats by Noon”
Christopher and Matthew Noon, principal owners of Noon Turf Care in Hudson, MA are proud to announce the creation of their non-profit organization “Cleats by Noon”. A cleat by Noon is a charity organization that assists with providing youth athletes with new athletic cleats on an as needed basis. Their first donation was to The Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School Girls and Boys Lacrosse teams this March. All team members will receive a brand new pair of athletic cleats at no cost. Chris and Matt found it appropriate for L-S to be their first donation as they both went to Lincoln Sudbury and played on sports teams there over 15 years ago.
As past athletes, they are sensitive to the rising costs and fees associated to even a high School such as their own in an affluent town. They know there are plenty of players that need the donation to alleviate some of the financial burden of being a Varsity athlete. They realize they have enough things to worry about as they have academics and extracurricular activities to also worry about. They did not want to single out any players so they decided to donate to the entire team.
“This is just the beginning of donations from Cleats by Noon,” says Chris Noon. “We plan to continue to donate to local high schools and youth organizations and find a process to get their cleats into the hands of young athletes that truly need help financially so they can focus on what they love, their sports!”
After High School Christopher went on to play division 1 soccer at Seton Hall University and Matthew went on to attend Boston College and run a business through college. Today, the brothers own an internet-based lawn care company that provides fertilization and scientific maintenance to residential and commercial clients through out Massachusetts.
Time is a versatile performer:
It will tell, it flies, it marches on, it heals all wounds and it waits for no one. Ticks, Ixodes scapularis aren’t waiting around in Massachusetts’ lawns and landscapes, either. These disease-carrying parasites lurk low to the ground in the turf or on trees and shrubs awaiting a ride from unsuspecting hosts such as the family pet or our children. Massachusetts is among the states with the highest incidence of Lyme disease. It is most prevalent on Cape Cod, southeastern MA, areas north and west of Boston and along the Quabbin Reservior. There is no known vaccine to protect humans against Lyme disease, so the best defense against ticks is a good offense. That means if you’re taking the walk through the woods, or are aware your children or pets have spent any length of time along your woodland perimeter, check them thoroughly for ticks. Ticks will always seek areas of the body that are the warmest. This includes between the toes, back of the knees, groin, armpit, neck, head and along the hairline. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health suggests that insect repellents containing DEET can be effective at repelling ticks, but recommends these products not be used on infants.
HOW SHOULD I REMOVE A TICK?
Should you find a tick embedded in the skin, The University of Massachusetts Extension recommends removing it as quickly as possible. But there is a right way and a wrong way. Never jerk, crush, twist or try to burn the tick. This only encourages it to burrow deeper and it may contaminate the bite wound or cause the tick’s mouthparts to break off and remain embedded. It is NOT suggested you use a cigarette, petroleum jelly, alcohol or nail polish to get the tick to just drop off. None of these methods are effective since after ticks penetrate the skin, they secrete a type of “cement” through their saliva. Instead, the Center for Disease Control recommends using a fine set of tweezers and grab the tick as near to the skin as possible. GENTLY tug straight upward until all parts of the tick are removed. After removing the tick, gently swab the bite wound with alcohol. The site should be monitored closely for redness and inflammation. If a red-ringed “bullseye” rash develops around the site, seek medical attention immediately. This could be indicative of the onset of Lyme disease. It is recommended the tick be submitted for testing for the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi, which is believed to cause Lyme disease.
You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by mowing the grass a little shorter during May through September. If possible, avoid areas known to be infested with ticks and clear unnecessary brush piles. Contact your lawn care provider and inquire about their Tick Prevention Program. For more information on preventing tick bites, call the Massachusetts Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617.983.6800