Lyme Lives Here

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

(page 7 of 15)

To that end, Lower Merion, East Goshen, Willistown, Kennett and Chadds Ford are among the townships with deer-management plans, committees or ordinances that include a Lyme-prevention component. High deer densities do result in higher detections of Lyme disease, says Gino J. D’Angelo, a New Britain-based wildlife biologist who works with Lower Merion and others municipalities. But D’Angelo concedes that there still would be Lyme disease without them. “Deer are one host,” he says. “It’s not necessarily true that deer are perpetuating [Lyme].”

In 2008, the deer density in Lower Merion was 58 per square mile. That’s typical of suburban tracts with public parks and available forage. In the mid-1980s, there were 31-35 per square mile at Valley Forge; now there are 241. That ’80s figure is the target reduction range for the park’s 15-year, $2.9 million deer-management plan, which is first utilizing USDA sharpshooters, then chemical birth control.

In effect since Oct. 1, 2009, the plan was immediately stalled when West Chester’s Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment and the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals filed a joint lawsuit that suspended the hunts. In October 2010, a judge ruled in favor of the park, and shooting began the following month. Earlier this year, the two groups appealed. Lee Hall, vice president for legal affairs for both animal rights groups, calls the killings “reprehensible” and “unethical,” maintaining that the deer “belong unmolested in the park.”

When Christina Fink’s mother first got sick, her bull’s-eye rash was misdiagnosed as a spider bite, then plantar fasciitis, then diabetes. All were convenient conclusions to explain away the longtime Chester County resident’s excruciating pain. Eventually, the condition was deemed psychiatric. Then she tested positive for Lyme.

Continued on page 8 ...