TUESDAY, Sept. 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — They look so cute, quietly grazing in your own backyard. But the overpopulation of white-tailed deer in the northeastern United States could help spread Lyme disease And another tick-borne disease, anaplasmosis, especially in suburban areas, according to a new study.
Research indicates that these deer carry tick that transmit the two diseases, are no longer confined to wooded areas, but live mostly within the yards of suburban homes, increasing the risk of transmission.
“Your yard is their home, and if you are concerned about ticks or tick management, or the potential for harm, you need to realize that this is where they actually choose to live and either work with them or deal with them,” lead researcher Jennifer Moulinex. She is an assistant professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of Maryland.
The deer themselves do not pose a health hazard. Molynax explained that black-legged ticks (deer ticks) and single star ticks carry the spread of Lyme disease and other diseases.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection due to the bite of an infected tick. It causes symptoms such as rash, fever, headache and fatigue. If left untreated it can spread to the heart, joints and Nervous system. Anaplasmosis causes similar symptoms and can lead to bleeding and kidney failure.
The ticks that cause these diseases settle down and multiply in your garden.
With development encroaching on their habitats, deer live close to humans, the landscape provides easy grazing on grasses, shrubs and flowers, Molinex said. She said your garden is “warm and safe, there are fewer predators and it’s comfortable.”
This five-year study found that suburban deer often spend the night 55 yards from human homes.
For the study, the Mullinax team tracked 51 deer that were outfitted with GPS trackers.
Trackers revealed that deer avoid residential areas during the day, but are attracted to them at night, especially in winter. The animals often slept near the edges of meadows and in the yards of homes and apartment buildings.
Many deer in residential areas increase the risk of human exposure to tick-borne diseases, Molinax said. She said reducing tick numbers by removing deer or treating areas where deer sleep could help reduce the spread of the disease.
The study indicated that managed deer hunting can help keep tick numbers in check, but that culling the herd can be difficult to achieve. She added that people don’t want hunters in suburban areas, and chemically reducing deer fertility hasn’t worked.
It’s possible to limit access to your yard by installing deer fences or mulch barriers, Mullinax said, but the best way to prevent disease may be to control the tick population.
“Most people get Lyme disease from ticks in their yard,” she said. “There are a lot of different ways to control ticks.” “For county and state agencies, it really does suggest that some adjustments have been made in managing deer populations.”
Dr. Mark Siegel is a clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City who reviewed the results.
Offer several strategies to reduce the number of ticks in your garden: Mow the lawn. Spray your garden for ticks. Use tick repellent. Check your body and clothing for ticks after spending time outdoors.
“Tell them to look for bumps on their scalp and in the pubic area,” Siegel said. “Tell them that if you feel tired, it might not be COVID – it might be Lyme.”
Given the difficulty of diagnosing Lyme disease, Siegel said he’s not afraid to prescribe antibiotics if Lyme disease is suspected by symptoms alone.
“I am in the category of over-medicated,” he said. “But this study makes me not look bad, because it basically says these things are getting out of hand. We expect to see more diseases.”
The research was published online September 17 in the journal urban ecosystems.
There is more about Lyme disease at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Jennifer Moulinex, Ph.D., assistant professor, Wildlife Ecology and Management, University of Maryland, College Park; Mark Siegel, MD, professor of clinical medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City; urban ecosystems, Online, 17 Sep 2022