NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - More than 300,000 people a year in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting a spike in the number of counties considered Lyme disease hot spots.
Now, two dozen villages in Dutchess County, New York, are on the front lines in the fight against the disease. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is launching The Tick Project in that area.
The five-year project hopes to find out if treating neighborhoods in the county for ticks can help reduce the cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
As part of the project, lawns are treated during the spring and early summer with fungal sprays that kill ticks. Then every two weeks researchers will check with the residents to see if anyone, including their animals, has had ticks on them.
They are also deploying bait boxes to attract rodents. In the box is an insecticide that kills ticks on mice and chipmunks, two animals responsible for infecting ticks with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
"It's a huge public health issue. It's a huge ecological issue. It's an economic issue and we don't have good solutions to it yet," senior scientist Richard Ostfeld said. "We simply lack them and that's what we are trying to address with this study."
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose and treat. The cost of treatment coasts the U.S. health care system up to $1.3 billion a year.