Although Long Island faced a brutal winter, tick season started early this year on the East End, and the tiny arachnids have already come out in strong numbers, according to experts.
That makes this the ideal time for Southampton Hospital to launch its Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center, established to serve as an educational tool for both the public and the medical community.
Although not a physical part of the hospital, the Resource Center consists of a hotline and website that offer all sorts of tips on tick-borne disease prevention and treatment. The website can be accessed at eastendtickresource.com, and people who call the hotline at (631) 726-TICK will speak with Registered Nurse Deborah Maile.
“There’s so much information and misinformation out there,” said Karen Wulffraat, the hospital’s community outreach coordinator. “We wanted to make it easy for people to get good information.”
The center, however, does not provide medical treatment; rather, it recommends local physicians who can conduct tests for tick-borne diseases and treat them. In addition to that, the center offers advice on how to protect both humans and animals from getting tick bites.
One component of the Resource Center, which officially launched May 1, is a series of hospital-sponsored discussion panels that will be held throughout different parts of the community. The first panel took place Saturday, June 7, and was well-received by those who attended.
Robert S. Chaloner, president and chief operating officer of Southampton Hospital, said the panel’s success is a testament to how much the Resource Center is needed out here.
“When we decided to organize Southampton Hospital’s Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center, we knew that tick-borne disease concerns everyone on the East End, both residents and visitors alike,” Mr. Chaloner said. “The standing-room only response to Southampton Hospital’s panel discussion last Saturday at Parrish Memorial Hall was proof of the community’s need for accessible, qualified information.”
According to Ms. Wulffraat, the Resource Center is funded by the hospital, and doctors and nurses on the advisory panel are volunteering their time. The hospital is currently looking for philanthropic support to help cover the costs of operating the hotline and website.
Experts stress that the best way to avoid tick-borne illness is through education, which the Resource Center is built to do. Teaching people to avoid tall grasses and wooded areas without wearing high socks or tick repellent, and advising that people conduct regular checks for ticks after being outside, will help prevent East End residents and visitors from getting bites in the first place.
Tick bites can result in various illnesses, including ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Lyme disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme disease alone in the United States, as of August 2013—the most ever reported in one year.
“This Resource Center is really needed on the East End,” said Brian Kelly, owner of East End Tick and Mosquito Control. Mr. Kelly was recently named the resident tick control expert on Suffolk County’s new Tick Control Advisory Committee. “So many are misinformed,” he said. “I think it’s going to help a lot.”