Barnstable County Officials Applaud Hospital’s Effort to Fund Tick Testing

HYANNIS – Barnstable County’s entomologist is applauding the effort by Cape Cod Healthcare to provide additional funding which allows residents to continue to have ticks tested at subsidized rates.

The healthcare organization committed an additional $30,000 to fund the program through the end of the year.

“I’m really happy to hear they looked at this as a community benefit and that’s excellent,” said Larry Dapsis, the county’s entomologist and tick-borne illness specialist.

The popular program reduces testing costs for county residents from $50 to $15 when they submit a tick through UMass Amherst’s Tickreport.com.

An original grant of $30,000 was expected to last from January through September, but funds were exhausted in June.

Dapsis said the program provides a benefit for residents who may start to get sick after being bitten by a tick.

“Now they have hard data that they can show their doctor and say ‘hey, I was potential exposed to this but I was potentially exposed to this and this and this,’” Dapsis said. “Because we are seeing a number of ticks that are co-infected, meaning they are packing more than one bug.”

Cape Cod Healthcare’s Senior Vice President for Strategy and Government Affairs Theresa Ahern said the organization understands how important this program is to the community.

“This grant is intended to support access to testing, so residents can be better informed about their health risk,” Ahern said. “The grant significantly reduces the out of pocket cost to residents by subsidizing the test.”

The cost of the tests and the volume of tests have increased in 2017 compared to last year.

“Since other sources of funding are not available for this season, we believe it is important to step in and fill the gap as the program is further developed,” Ahern said.

Since Fiscal Year 2014, Cape Cod Healthcare has provided $112,000 for the tick testing subsidies.

“Our Community Health Needs Assessment identified tick-borne diseases as an area of concern for Cape Cod Residents,” Ahern said.

The healthcare organization has supported the tick education and research efforts of the Barnstable County Cape Cod Collaborative Extension since 2014. CCHC initially helped fund tick bite prevention signs for walking trails on Cape Cod.

“Since then we have offered support for both education and prevention efforts, as well as the actual tick testing program,” Ahern said.

Dapsis said the Cape is a hot spot for deer ticks and tick borne diseases and that residents need to be vigilant and aware.

Dapsis recommends wearing real shoes and not flip-flops when in an area that may have ticks.

“I stress the importance of treating footwear and socks and pants with repellent that contains the active ingredient permethrin, which you can get at any major garden center on the Cape,” he said. “And permethrin, hands down, is the most effective tool in the box to prevent a tick bite.”

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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