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A minuscule foe, a massive public health challenge

Tick-borne Lyme disease is epidemic in New England, but prevention efforts are scattershot, lagging far behind need

July 14, 2013 | By Beth Daly | Globe Staff

Laurie Bent (left) dressed in light clothing to avoid tick bites during a walk with Emily Hutcheson and Bent’s dog. Photo: ESSDRAS M SUAREZ/ GLOBE STAFF

"Second in a series of occasional articles.

Should we kill all the deer?

That was the question facing residents of Maine’s Monhegan Island in the mid-1990s. Lyme disease caused by deer tick bites afflicted 13 percent of the year-round inhabitants. The parasites often feed on deer before laying eggs, the argument went, so wipe out the herd and we might be rid of the ticks.

After fierce debate, islanders made the wrenching decision: Hire sharpshooters.

'Everyone was sort of fond of the deer . . . but we considered this an epidemic,' said Doug Boynton, a longtime resident. More than 100 deer were shot, and today, he said, 'Lyme disease is virtually nil here'".

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