lt’s a project that could make your skin crawl.
Large populations of brown dog ticks are plaguing several communities in the Southwest. Making matters worse, the ticks are biting people and transmitting a bacteria causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Since 2004, more than 250 cases of the disease have been reported in Arizona, 17 of which resulted in death. Many of the people most affected by the disease are children and the elderly.
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stepped in to work with other federal, state and local authorities, in one of the affected communities, to look for a potential solution to the problem, they sought help from one of the world’s leading animal health companies, Bayer HealthCare Animal Health, whose North American headquarters are based in Shawnee, Kan.
For Bayer, partnering with the CDC on this pilot project provided opportunities in addition to the challenge of reducing area tick populations. It enabled the company to use an effective and innovative new flea and tick collar for the first time in the United States and it provided the unique opportunity for multiple divisions of Bayer to work together to help a community in desperate need of a solution.
In early April, Bayer sent to the community a three-member team that included Dr. Doug Spilker, manager of EPA regulatory affairs in Bayer HealthCare’s Animal Health division. What the team saw was alarming.
“Hundreds of dogs roamed freely, and many of the dogs we looked at had ticks, especially in their ears,” Spilker said. “These tick-infested dogs could introduce ticks into the home environment.”
Fortunately, Bayer had a potential answer for the problem. The company had just received Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval for a new flea and tick collar called Seresto®. Unlike current collars on the market, Seresto quickly begins working to repel and kill fleas and ticks, and it will continue to protect the animal for up to eight months. Nearly 700 dogs have been fitted with Seresto collars since the program began.
According to Dr. Cristiano von Simson, director of veterinary technical services at Bayer HealthCare Animal Health, “Current spot-on products for tick protection have to be applied on a monthly basis, and although some tick collars will last longer than a month, they take up to a few weeks to get up to speed and their protection level is often modest at best.”
The CDC was concerned that the dogs wouldn’t receive the monthly tick product applications necessary to eliminate the pests. Thus, Seresto’s eight-month protection offered a good solution. The collars provide sustained release of the active ingredients using innovative materials provided by Bayer MaterialScience.
The collars also had another benefit. “The collar is visible on the dog, so you know which dogs had been treated,” von Simson said. “So several factors lined up to make us believe that this product had a very good chance of success.”
The CDC’s comprehensive plan also included treating the area in and around homes for ticks. Approximately a month later, when a team from the Environmental Science division of Bayer CropScience arrived to oversee spraying the homes and perimeters for ticks, they found an almost tick-free dog population.
“The dogs carried lots of ticks when the collaring team visited the community a month before, but when I arrived, the majority of the dogs were clean,” said Stephanie Darnell, product development manager – insecticides with Bayer CropScience’s Environmental Science division located at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
The Environmental Science team was tasked with treating the homes, both inside and out, with Bayer Advanced Complete brand Insect Killer for Soil and Turf and with Temprid™, a professional pest management insect control product. Bayer also recruited a local pest control company to provide free labor and equipment to the project.
“Professionals understand where ticks hide and the best places to spray,” Darnell said. “Ticks hide in cracks and crevices, along the baseboards, and around doors and windows.”
The pest control company volunteers, along with volunteers from Environmental Science, the CDC and Community Health Services, sprayed 528 homes and perimeters. Exterior spraying will continue on a monthly basis June through August, Darnell said.
Other components to the CDC’s comprehensive disease control plan include educational materials for the community residents and free spaying and neutering of dogs to better manage the dog population.
As Bayer continues to monitor the community’s tick population – along with providing additional Seresto collars, particularly as the puppies outgrow their small-sized collars – the CDC is tracking the incidence of disease in the community. According to von Simson, preliminary observations are extremely promising.
While Darnell admits the project has involved a lot of work, it’s also provided many rewards. She said that working with the CDC was incredible and she praised their knowledge and dedication.
“It breaks your heart knowing that there are children affected by the disease,” she said. “But the CDC has a very good program in place, and they’re passionate about what they’re doing.”
“The people in the community would stop us in the street asking when their homes would be sprayed, because they wanted to know that their families, their children, are protected,” Darnell said. “It felt so good to know that we’re helping their community and the people were very thankful for it.”