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Cultural Events

Bee Webcast Focusing On Tickborne Disease Prevention



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The next in a series of free Facebook Live webcasts produced by The Newtown Bee will feature representatives of the Newtown Health District and a well-known scientist and researcher speaking about the increasing dangers posed by new species of ticks, and how to avoid contracting one or more of the tickborne diseases these tiny insects harbor. The discussion will be moderated by this writer and producer, as associate editor of this newspaper.

The webcast is scheduled for noon on Friday, May 21, and will be posted afterward on the newspaper’s YouTube channel.

The special guest will be Goudarz Molaei, PhD, a research scientist, director of the Passive Tick Surveillance Program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), and associate clinical professor of epidemiology of microbial diseases at the Yale School of Public Health.

Molaei has provided invaluable details to Newtown Bee readers in the Bee’s May 7 print and web edition.

The CAES scientist will be joined by Health District Director Donna Culbert, MPH, PE, RS, and the district’s administrative assistant, Maureen Schaedler, who guides countless Newtown residents through the process of getting tick samples analyzed for possible tickborne diseases.

Molaei will discuss some of the concerning things he is seeing on the front lines both in the lab and in the field, where he and his team have been collecting tick samples in escalating numbers this year — and identifying new species of ticks that are proliferating here in Fairfield and neighboring New Haven counties.

By mid-April, the health district had already seen the proportion of disease-laden ticks brought in for testing increase from about 30% at a similar point last year, to more than 50% this year. Similarly, Molaei said, last April, the CAES logged 436 tick specimens that had been removed from people; by May 1 of this year, his office had received more than 1,000 ticks.

Local Ticks & TBDs

In 2020, Molaei said about 50% of ticks were infected with Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, or babesiosis. And with the arrival and spread of the lone star, Gulf Coast, and Asian longhorned ticks joining the state’s huge population of the black-legged (deer) and common dog ticks, his concern is significantly heightened.

Add to that the changes in winter weather caused by global warming, and the former spring-to-fall tick season is now essentially a year-round phenomenon. For Culbert, who has a long tradition of promoting tick and tickborne disease safety, that news was not unexpected but still unwelcome.

“As we know, tickborne disease or TBD is always heavy on the minds of the Health District,” she said. “Similar to the region around us, ticks, tick bites, and TBD have impacted many, many Newtown and district residents. And with our newer and more current knowledge about recently identified ticks and the infections they can pass to us, it is just as important as ever to pay attention and take precautions.”

Culbert is expected to talk mitigation in the form of the BLAST program the district has been promoting for nearly a decade, and which Molaei believes is an effective system of prevention. Schaedler will likely explain to viewers the process by which they can remove and bring in ticks for testing — and what to expect when and if positive results are returned.

Tune in to The Newtown Bee’s Facebook page at noon on May 21 to be part of this important conversation, or watch the recording later at youtube.com/user/thenewtownbee.

Associate Editor John Voket can be reached at john@thebee.com.

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