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Battling against Lyme disease

Summertime is supposed to be a fun season when people can enjoy the sun, go swimming and exercise outside, but with outdoor enjoyment comes an increased danger of acquiring tick-born Lyme disease.

Is this a problem around here? Yes, it definitely is and it appears to be a growing problem, said Kathleen LoGiudice, a biology professor at Union College who conducted a study with Union Economics Professor Stephen Schmidt on tick populations in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. "You see here for Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties, the number of Lyme disease cases have really gone straight up in the past 10 years, and it's not expected to abate."

The study showed that in 2008 there were 638 reported cases of Lyme disease in those three counties. It focused on the Pine Bush's controlled fires and found the burns led to 98 percent fewer nymph and adult ticks in the preserve's 3,010 acres.

The controlled fires have removed trees covered in black locusts to create a more arid and dry land where it is harder for ticks to survive, said LoGuidice. Reducing the tick density reduces the number of cases of Lyme disease.

Three sites that were infested with black locust were looked at along with three areas that had been restored in the Pine Bush. LoGuidice said during during the spring season at the black locust sites there was an average of 326 ticks, but just 13 at the restored sites. The numbers were developed over the course of three years, starting in 2007.

Lyme disease comes from the bite from a deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, which is transmitted from the white-footed mouse. White-tailed deer are also a carrier of deer ticks, hence the name, but they do not carry Lyme disease.

According to Eva Haughie, president of the Empire State Lyme Disease Association, ticks can be transferred from other people or even household pets such as dogs.

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