Lyme Lives Here

Doctors and lawmakers alike take a stand against this misunderstood disease permeating Southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Park officials recently moved forward with deer-management programs—but only, they say, to regenerate forest and curtail vehicle collisions, not to curb Lyme disease. Any deer-control problem is also a political problem. Pennsylvania’s hunters, its game commission, and National Rifle Association lobbyists all want deer populations to thrive.

Lyme experts say that local municipalities should be cleaning up tick habitats by clearing underbrush, mowing road edges, spraying well-timed insecticides and installing four-poster deer feeders to keep them at bay in forested areas. Valley Forge Park once mowed all of its 3,600 acres. But, to promote biodiversity, it’s now leaving tall-grass meadows—a perceived tick magnet.

“Our [Lyme] message stands: It’s prevention,” says Kristina Heister, the Valley Forge Park’s natural resource manager. “Dress appropriately, wear repellent, and home-check yourself before showering. Stay on our trails and out of shrubbery and vegetation. We’ve said over and over that deer do not carry the disease. It’s white-footed mice—and white-footed mice are everywhere, so you can’t control that.”

Valley Forge provides an ideal habitat for deer, but so do Lower Merion, Goshen and other area townships. “This is a regional issue,” Heister insists.

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