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Students taught how to avoid ticks: Town, Mashomack and school roll out program

To help counter Islanders and visitors being bitten by ticks and developing illnesses, Deer & Tick Committee member Julia Weisenberg has been working with Mashomack Preserve staffers to get information out on how to avoid tick-borne illnesses.

In past years, some Mashomack staffers noted families were seen on the trails wearing shorts, sandals and nothing to protect them from tick bites. Because of the proliferation of ticks on the Island, advice has been to wear white socks tucked into light-colored pants and tops with sleeves and to check throughly for ticks and remove them  after returning from a hike.

Ms. Weisenberg joined Cindy Belt and Rebecca Kusa from Mashomack to offer a program for students in grades 3 through 6 and send information home to families about prevention tips.

While Ms. Weisenberg posed as a tick, pointing out characteristics of various types of the arachnids at a May 18 meeting with students, Ms. Belt wore the appropriate white socks tucked into light colored pants and carrying bug spray in her pocket. Conversely, Ms. Kusa was decked out in shorts, open footwear and a dark shirt.

The more people follow the advice, the less likely they are to be infected with tick-borne illnesses, the women told the students.

They explained how to identify black-legged deer ticks and dog and lone star ticks and how to differentiate each. They explained how ticks bite and spoke about the illnesses they carry. For the older students, there was a discussion of life stages of ticks that would help to identify the type of bite and how it might lead to specific illnesses.

Students got a way to remember the steps necessary to protecting themselves. It’s known as  S.C.A.R.E.D.D:

• S – Shower after outdoor activity

• C – Check yourself for ticks

• A – Avoid tall grass and brush

• R – Repel ticks with repellents on skin and clothing

• E – Examine your pets and children for ticks too

• D – Dress appropriately with long sleeve and pants

• D – Dry clothes in a dryer after outdoor activity

Students were quizzed on what they learned and given an opportunity to enter into a photo contest. Students in grades 3 through 6 are invited to enter a “Be Prepared Photo Contest,” using the information they’ve learned.  Children can take pictures and send them to their teachers to transmit to the Deer & Tick Committee.

“We are looking for the most creative, inspiring photo that will teach others how to be prepared to avoid tick bites,” Ms. Weisenberg said. She told students their photos should feature ways to prepare for an outing in the woods, on the beach or simply a walk outdoors.

Photos could demonstrate how to protect themselves, and if they have pets, how to protect them, and steps to take if they find a tick on a pet.

The pictures are to be turned over to teachers by Monday, May 23 for judging with three winners selected. Each winner is to receive a gift certificate from a local vendor and their photos are slated to be displayed at Town Hall and on social media.