News Release
   
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   April 11, 2001

Christine Grant
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Marilyn Riley
609-984-7160

 

New Jersey Awarded Federal Lyme Disease Research Grants

TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has been awarded $363,000 in federal grants to study ways of reducing the incidence of Lyme disease in the state. The one-year funding may be renewed for up to three years.

Just over $281,000 will be used to fund a community-based Lyme disease intervention study in Morris County. New Jersey is one of four states, all of them in the Northeast, to receive federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grants to do community intervention studies. The remaining $82,000 will fund research into the factors affecting tick population densities in New Jersey.

"Although we've done considerable Lyme disease research over the years, this is our first opportunity to work so closely with a local community to find effective ways to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease," said Commissioner Christine Grant. "With these grants, CDC has recognized that we have the solid partnerships with local health departments that are needed to conduct successful studies."

Mendham Borough and Mendham Township will be the focus of the community-based study aimed at reducing exposure to the ticks that can transmit the infectious organism that causes Lyme disease. The state health department chose Mendham for the study because it is a wooded, suburban community in a county with a high Lyme disease incidence rate.

For much of the grant's first year, state health officials and the Bernards Township Health Department - which serves Mendham Borough and Township -- will prepare to launch the intervention in early 2002 in time for the Lyme disease season. A pre-study questionnaire will be sent to residents to measure Lyme disease awareness, use of personal protection measures and use of tick control practices on property.

With community input, health officials will then implement a number of interventions in Mendham. Community-wide education efforts will focus on increasing knowledge of Lyme disease and the concrete steps residents can take to reduce risk, such as cutting back vegetation on property or carefully using acaricides (pesticides that kill ticks). There will also be outreach to the medical community, and active surveillance for Lyme disease cases in the Morris County area.

The state health department will also train local pest control companies in proper tick control techniques and monitor the use of acaricides in the area. Lists of specially trained pest control firms will be made available to interested residents.

Changes in residents' awareness and practices will then be measured through annual questionnaires. The state health department will also monitor changes in Lyme disease case rates over time, tick abundance and infection rates in ticks.

"Lyme disease is a significant public health issue in New Jersey," said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner. "What we learn in Mendham can be applied elsewhere in the state to reduce people's risk of disease."

With the remaining $82,000 in grant money, the state will work with the Freehold Township Health Department to examine ecologic factors - such as the deer population, weather conditions, and plant communities -- affecting the distribution and density of ticks in the state. The results will help guide future efforts to determine disease risk and inform people of ways to reduce their exposure to ticks.

In 2000, there were 2,492 reported cases of Lyme disease in the state for a rate of 29.6 cases per 100,000 population. Morris County reported 468 cases, for a rate of 99.6 per 100,000 population.

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