Campaign to battle Lyme disease mounts as Hamptons epidemic grows
It’s the Hamptons’ dirty little secret: Dozens of children and adults are being diagnosed with Lyme disease each day as officials mount a campaign to battle ticks.
The problem has gotten so bad that Southampton Hospital launched the Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center to help residents bugging out over the tiny blood-suckers.
One physician, Dr. Blake Kerr, told The Post he treats 100 patients a week for Lyme disease.
“It’s an epidemic,” said Kerr, who runs Wainscott Walk-In Medical Center and last summer contracted Lyme and two other tick-borne illnesses simultaneously.
Pediatrician Dr. Nadia Persheff of Hampton Pediatrics in Southampton sees as many as four children a day for Lyme disease and 20 for tick bites — including one 3-week-old baby who came in with four ticks on his back.
“You have to check every kid and every baby,” Persheff said. “We’re much busier than last summer. I’ve never seen it like this.”
Suffolk County was ground zero for Lyme disease in 2012, leading the state with 689 reported cases, data show. In 2013, the number of reported cases dropped to 566, according to state data.
Still, locals believe the ticks — and tick-related illnesses — are growing every year. The culprits are often deer ticks, which carry Lyme or malaria-like diseases such as babesiosis and — at the size of a poppy seed — are much smaller than common wood ticks.
Lyme disease, a bacterial illness with symptoms of skin rash, headache and fatigue can cause neurological damage and other serious problems if left untreated. Early treatment typically includes a single dose of antibiotics.
Brian Kelly, owner of East End Tick and Mosquito Control, said he has fielded frantic calls from out-of-towners who want him to remove ticks from their bodies.
“People are realizing they’re everywhere — you can’t even go to the beach without getting a tick,” Kelly said.