State: B.I. has high Lyme disease rate
9/25/10 — Block Island experiences significantly more new cases of Lyme disease than anywhere else in the state, according to Rhode Island’s Director of Health, Dr. David Gifford.
Gifford said he would be willing to support changes in state law to help the island eliminate its deer herd.
He imparted this information in a meeting with the Deer Task Force at Town Hall Tuesday morning, and he indicated he is ready to help Block Island.
Recent figures released by the Block Island Health Center show it diagnosed 42 cases of the disease in 2009, and thus far this year, 43.
Of the 2009 cases, 18 of the infected were year-round residents, seven were summer residents, five were summer workers, and 11 were visitors. Among them, 32 thought they’d contracted the illness on the island. Similarly, in 2010, 22 of the infected were year-round residents, 16 summer residents, one summer worker and four visitors. Of those cases, 34 thought they’d contracted the disease on-island.
However, statistics released by the state did not jibe with the island numbers.
The state identified only four confirmed cases for Block Island in 2009. Epidemiologist Utpala Bandy suggested the disparity comes because in order for a case to be considered official, it requires clinical data from the physician as well as lab tests that the state receives. Still, even four new cases, according to Bandy, is a high number.
Indeed, only one new onset a year would be expected on Block Island using Centers for Disease Control-prescribed surveillance methodology based on population.
The clinical data statewide for 2009 — the last full year for which statistics are complete — showed 151 confirmed cases in the approximately one million Rhode Islanders.