TUESDAY, Sept. 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — They look so cute, grazing quietly in your backyard. However the overpopulation of white-tailed deer over the Northeastern USA may help spread Lyme disease and another tick-borne illness, anaplasmosis, especially in suburban areas, a fresh study suggests.
The study points out these deer, which carry ticks that transmit both diseases, are no more confined to wooded areas, but often live within yards of suburban homes, increasing the chance of transmission.
“Your yard is their house, and when you’re worried about ticks or tick management, or potentially damage done, you then need to notice that that’s where they actually elect to live and either use them or manage against them,” said lead researcher Jennifer Mullinax. She’s an assistant professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of Maryland.
The deer themselves aren’t a threat to health. However the black-legged (deer ticks) and lone star ticks they carry spread Lyme along with other diseases, Mullinax explained.
Lyme disease is really a infection due to the bite of an infected tick. It causes symptoms like a rash, fever, headache and fatigue. If left untreated it could spread to the center, joints and nervous system. Anaplasmosis causes comparable symptoms and can result in hemorrhages and kidney failure.
The ticks that cause these illnesses lodge and breed on your own lawn.
As development encroaches on the habitats, deer you live nearer to humans, and landscapes offer easy grazing on grasses, shrubs and flowers, Mullinax said. Your lawn is “warm, it’s safe, there’s fewer predators, and it’s really just convenient,” she said.
This five-year study discovered that suburban deer often spend the night time within 55 yards of human homes.
For the analysis, Mullinax’s team tracked 51 deer which were outfitted with GPS tracking devices.
The trackers revealed that deer avoided residential areas throughout the day, but gravitated in their mind during the night, especially during winter. The animals often slept close to the edges of lawns and within yards of houses and apartment buildings.
So many deer in residential areas raise the threat of human contact with tick-borne illnesses, Mullinax said. Reducing tick populations by detatching deer or treating areas where deer bed down might help limit the spread of disease, she said.
Managed deer hunting might help keep carefully the tick population in balance, but culling the herd could be hard to perform, the study described. People don’t want hunters in suburban areas, and chemically reducing the fertility of deer hasn’t worked, it added.
Mullinax said it is possible to limit usage of your yard by installing deer fencing or mulch barriers, but an easier way to avoid disease could be to regulate the tick population.
“A lot of people get Lyme disease from the ticks within their yard. There are a great number of different solutions to control ticks,” she said. “For the county agencies and state agencies, it is pointing them to create some adjustments in managing the deer population.”
Dr. Marc Siegel is really a clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone INFIRMARY in NEW YORK who reviewed the findings.
He offered several ways of decrease the tick population in your yard: Cut your grass short. Have your yard sprayed for ticks. Use tick repellent. And check the body and clothing for ticks after you have spent time outdoors.
“I inform them to consider bumps on the scalp and within their pubic area,” Siegel said. “I inform them that should you feel fatigued, it could not be COVID — it might be Lyme.”
Because Lyme disease could be hard to diagnose, Siegel said he’s not afraid to prescribe antibiotics if he suspects Lyme disease by symptoms alone.
“I’m in the group of over-treaters,” he said. “But this study makes me not look bad, because it’s basically saying these exact things are going uncontrollable. We be prepared to see a many more disease.”
The study was published online Sept. 17 in the journal Urban Ecosystems.
There’s more about Lyme disease at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Jennifer Mullinax, PhD, assistant professor, wildlife ecology and management, University of Maryland, College Park; Marc Siegel, MD, clinical professor, medicine, NYU Langone INFIRMARY, NEW YORK; Urban Ecosystems, online, Sept. 17, 2022