Health: Snow Library To Screen Short Documentary 'Tick Days'

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Ticks

County Entomologist Larry Dapsis collects ticks in a scene from “Tick Days.” COURTESY PHOTO

ORLEANS Documentary videographer Marnie Crawford Samuelson, a part-time Cape resident since 1985, knew that “Tick Days” was a story that needed to be told.

“Way too many Cape neighbors and friends are becoming terribly sick from tick bites, getting not just Lyme disease, but babesiosis and other serious pathogens,” she said. She partnered with filmmaker Shane Hofeldt to produce the 18-minute documentary, which is being shown at the Snow Library next week.

“Massachusetts is one of the states with the highest number of cases of tick-borne diseases in the country. And the state and federal governments are bringing shamefully few resources to bear to fight this worsening health crisis,” Samuelson said.

The documentary follows the work of Barnstable County Entomologist Larry Dapsis as he researches tick populations on the Cape and educates the public about the risk they pose.

“The headline is, it's not just about Lyme disease anymore, that's clear. We are now dealing with five pathogens that will land you in the hospital in a heartbeat,” Dapsis says in the video. Teaching people to be tick-aware is a crusade for Dapsis.

“My job, in some respects, is to take business away from hospitals and doctors. And I'm a pit bull with a bucket of KFC. This is a problem that I will not let go of,” he says.

One woman featured in the video is a Falmouth resident who was outside with her children who were running a lemonade stand when she discovered ticks all over her body. In all, 182 ticks were attached to the woman, including swift-moving, aggressive lone star ticks. The documentary also describes the Powassan virus, a rare, new pathogen that can be fatal in about 10 percent of those who are infected.

But “Tick Days” goes beyond the public health aspect of the tick problem, Samuelson said.

“We are interested in the ways that this is a climate change story,” she said. The documentary also describes how ticks thrive in suburban environments where fragmented forests have caused a reduction in natural biodiversity.

The Sept. 15 screening will take place at 2 p.m. in the Marion Craine Gallery of Snow Library, Orleans, starting at 2 p.m. Samuelson and Dapsis will be on hand for a question-and-answer period following the screening. Admission is free.

“The library screenings really allow for a full conversation with Cape neighbors,” Samuelson said. The documentary has already been shown in Provincetown, Woods Hole and Chatham, each time with a lively question-and-answer period.

“At Chatham library, people asked questions for more than an hour,” she said. The library screenings aim to bring the story to particularly vulnerable populations, including older people and parents with young children. Additional screenings will be held this fall.

Minimizing tick-borne diseases is about limiting the opportunities for bites by wearing long clothing treated with permethrin, regularly checking for ticks, and putting clothes in the dryer for 20 minutes after spending time in tick habitat. Detailed information on tick bite prevention is available at www.CapeCodExtension.org/Ticks.

In “Tick Days,” Dapsis said he counts it as a victory each time someone prevents a tick bite. His crusade is about reducing interactions between humans and ticks, not getting rid of the parasites.

“You're not going to spray your way out of this problem,” he said.