May 9, 2001 KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 24, 2001 -- Most golfers aren't aware that they face a high risk of attracting Lyme disease from deer ticks living on the edge of the woods in and around golf courses, according to Elyes Zhioua, assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island and the director of the URI Tick Research Lab.
Zhioua's recent research found that deer ticks were abundant around five golf courses he surveyed in Rhode Island, and 50 to 75 percent of those ticks were infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
"The wooded area at the edge of most golf courses is the natural habitat of deer ticks," notes Zhioua. "And most players' shots occasionally end up there."
While deer ticks are never found on grass in open areas like golf course fairways, Zhioua said that once players approach the wooded edge of a course, they should be aware that ticks are likely to be abundant.
Lyme disease has been recorded in 47 states, though the regions of highest risk are the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic states.
When an infected deer tick bites a human, it injects the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. It may also transmit the malaria-like protozoan that causes babesiosis and a bacterium that causes human granulocytic erlichiosis (HGE). Like Lyme disease, both of these infections cause flu-like symptoms and are difficult to diagnose.
"As a result of my research, I strongly recommend that golf course superintendents begin an awareness and education campaign for their golfers," said Zhioua. "I hope that golf courses do not just dump large quantities of insecticide along the edge of their courses, because insecticide alone will not resolve the problem."
There are approximately 60,000 golf courses in the United States.
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