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Loudoun may spray for ticks carrying Lyme disease

Friday - 9/7/2012, 3:52am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Loudoun County is considering a new war on Lyme disease, but it's not without controversy.

The county has averaged about 200 cases of Lyme disease in each of the last five years. Those cases account for about 25 percent of the cases in all of Virginia.

This year, the county is again considering the use of insecticides to kill the ticks that carry the disease. The tick-borne illness can be fatal, although it is treatable if caught early.

Tips for Avoiding Ticks

  • Avoid tall grass and dense vegetation.
  • Walk in the middle of mowed trails to avoid brushing against anything.
  • Cut your grass and thin your underbrush.
  • Get rid of places where small rodents live.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks are easier to see.
  • Tuck your pant legs into socks and boots.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts buttoned at the wrists.
  • Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks every 4 hours to 6 hours.
  • Use tick repellent that contain 30 percent DEET or 0.5 percent permethrin.
  • Ask your veterinarian to recommend tick control methods for your pets.
Source: Virginia Department of Health

Spraying has proven effective against ticks in the past, says Dr. Samuel Shor, who heads the Loudoun Lyme Disease Commission.

"It's not aerial spraying. It's targeted areas that are on the periphery of forested areas, the periphery of high grass," says Shor.

Some parents have worried about the health effects insecticides might have on children, but Dr. Shor says the risk is low.

The increase in Lyme disease has come with the rapid growth of Loudoun County. New developments infringe on what used to be woodlands heavily populated by deer. Deer ticks are a major carrier of Lyme disease.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Janet Clark, R-Blue Ridge, says the county has to take some action.

"It's rare for me to find a family that hasn't been affected or knows someone that hasn't been affected," she says.

The Board of Supervisors' Finance and Government Services Committee will review the spraying proposal Monday night.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)