Western Connecticut State University and Ridgefield’s Health Department are again working together to reduce Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. They received a new $25,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The local collaboration was one of 11 projects selected from 70 submissions.
The project, “Spray Safe, Play Safe” will provide community education about chemical spraying for tick management. Officials say pesticide sprays are one of the most effective methods for reducing tick populations, but many homeowners have concerns about pesticides.
Fairfield County is consistently among the highest reporters of Lyme disease in the country. Children are of special concern because Lyme disease incidence is highest in children under age 10.
Associate professor of Biological and Environmental Sciences Dr. Neeta Connally says some people spray too often or in the wrong locations in the yard, which can have negative environmental impacts. Others may choose to spray an ineffective product. She says this grant project will help them empower homeowners, particularly families with young children, to make informed decisions about pesticide use in their backyards.
In 2016, Connally received a four-year, $1.6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at determining better ways to reduce tick-borne disease in residential settings.
Connally is a Ridgefield resident and the current scientific advisor to the BLAST Tick-borne Disease Prevention Program. The health education initiative of the Ridgefield Health Department that seeks to reduce tick-borne diseases in the region.
BLAST is a series of steps: Bathe after outdoor activity; Look for ticks on one’s body and children; Apply insect repellent; Spray the yard; and Treat one’s pets.
BLAST program educators engage in conversations about tick-borne disease prevention strategies, including yard spray, at more than 30 scheduled programs, health fairs and community events each year. They have found that homeowners are interested in learning best practices for reducing ticks and preventing Lyme disease near homes, but that many still engage in practices that either increase pesticide exposure risk to themselves or the environment, or are ineffective at reducing ticks.