Times of Huntington

Researchers regularly gather at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor to share ideas about to counteract Lyme Disease.

Lyme disease, the increasingly common tick-borne disease, may soon be preventable. 

Experts from academia, government and industry have been discussing at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center the benefits and scientific feasibility of developing a vaccine that would essentially stop the infection in humans. 

The highlights of those discussions are summarized in a new study published Oct. 17 in Clinical Infectious Disease. Its conclusion: 

“We are now positioned at a crossroad where advanced technologies allow for application of new genetic strategies for immunizations, possible identification of new immunogens, and repurpose of proven vaccine candidates not only for humans but also for domestic animals and environmental reservoirs.” 

In laymen’s terms: New techniques are there, it’s creating a lot of excitement and there’s hope. 

The study is the culmination of more than 3 years of meetings held at the lab, where the most promising strategies for counteracting the infection were discussed. 

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Traditionally, vaccines have been used to treat infectious diseases and rely on human antibodies to attack the germ. One of the new vaccines, which might be used in combination with traditional techniques, actually impacts the tick.

“What was discovered several years ago, to everyone’s surprise, a Lyme vaccine worked inside the tick itself and inactivated the Lyme bacteria. Newer vaccines are being designed to disrupt the mechanism for transmission of the Lyme bacteria from tick to human,” said Dr. Steven Schutzer, one of the study’s lead authors. 

Researchers cannot speculate when the vaccines will become publicly available, but they said they feel encouraged that they are in the pipeline with some trials underway.

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline, and is most successfully eradicated with early diagnosis. The only preventative measure to date, the researchers note, is to simply avoid tick bites. That strategy, though, has been ineffective at stopping the disease’s prevalence. Each year, more than 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. In Suffolk County, 600 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease, the highest rate in New York State. 

Lyme disease symptoms include fever, fatigue and headache, symptoms that often mimic other illnesses. It is often diagnosed by its characteristic bullseye skin rash, but not all cases present with a rash. Left untreated, the disease can infect the joints, heart and nervous system. Some people suffer from a post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and have trouble thinking six months after they finish treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher was recently diagnosed with meningitis, induced she said, by a severe case of Lyme disease. After hearing other people’s stories about how Lyme disease can cause major illnesses, even a heart attack, she said a vaccine would be welcomed. 

During the Cold Spring Harbor meetings, a recognition emerged among participants that an effective vaccine was an important public health tool and the best path to follow to counteract the disease. 

Schutzer emphasized, though, that getting vaccinated for Lyme disease, a noncontagious disease, would be a personal choice, rather than a public health mandate. 

“When the pathogen is highly contagious, vaccines are most effective when a large population is vaccinated, creating herd immunity, and leading to the protection of the individual and of the community,” the researchers state in the study. “A vaccine directed against the causative agent B. burgdorferi, or against the tick vector that transmits this bacterium, will only protect the vaccinated person; thus, in this case, herd immunity does not apply toward protection of the community.” 

Stony Brook University researcher Jorge Benach participated in the meetings and noted Lyme vaccines are currently available for dogs but not appropriate for humans. 

“There’s clearly a need,” he said. “A lot of things need to be considered before an approval of a vaccine.”

One of those factors: 25 percent of ticks carrying the Lyme bacterium also carry other infectious organisms. 

Both researchers said they valued the rare opportunity to commingle, discuss and share expertise about a certain aspect of science under one roof during the Banbury Center’s meetings on Lyme disease.  

Dr. Rebecca Leshan, executive director of the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, is proud that the meetings can impact the wider community. 

“I can’t overemphasize the importance of the small meetings convened at the Banbury Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,” she said. “They provide a truly unique opportunity for experts to engage with counterparts they may never otherwise meet and stimulate new ideas and strategies. And the beautiful Lloyd Harbor setting may provide a bit of extra inspiration for all those who participate.”

The first meetings of the group resulted in improved diagnostics that has already had major effects, with FDA approval of a number of tests. Outcomes from the most recent meetings, she said, continue to set the right course of action. 

Suffolk County legislators approved a $3.2 billion budget for 2020 Nov. 6. TBR News Media file photo

In a 16-2 bi-partisan vote, Suffolk County legislators approved a $3.2 billion budget for 2020 during a special meeting this past Wednesday, Nov. 6.  

Highlights of the budget include $640,000 for contract agencies, additional positions in the Sheriff’s Office, restoration of funding to the Legal Aid Society and $500,000 for implementation of the school bus camera program. 

The property tax level for the Southwest Sewer District has been decreased, restoring it to the 2019 level. Cash reserves were increased by $2 million for settlements to reduce the need to borrow to cover liability expenses, reduced reduced sales tax revenue in the general fund by $1.7 million over two years and included repayment of funds borrowed from the Assessment Stabilization Reserve fund. 

The additions were offset by an anticipated $2.5 million in fine revenue from the school bus camera program, reducing repayment of the Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund from $12 million in the recommended 2020 budget by $2.6 million, and reducing the uncollected property tax contingency line by $1.6 million. 

 

People go to vote at the Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Executive:

(WINNER) Steve Bellone (D) – 55.42% – 148,043 votes

John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) – 43.38% – 115,867 votes 

Gregory Fisher (L) – 1.18% – 3,147 votes 

 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor: 

(WINNER) Ed Romaine (R) – 61.52% – 51,155 votes 

Will Ferraro (D) – 37.42% – 31.113 votes 

Junie Legister (L) – 1.04% – 865 votes 

 

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent: 

(WINNER) Dan Losquadro (R) – 58.47% – 48, 624 votes 

Anthony Portesy (D) – 41.51% – 34,514 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 1st District: 

(WINNER) Valerie Catright (D) – 57.36% – 8,647 votes 

Tracy Kosciuk (R) – 42.59% – 6,421 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 2nd District: 

(WINNER) Jane Bonner (C) – 61.97% – 10,028 votes 

Sarah Deonarine (D) – 37.99% – 6,147 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 3rd District:

(WINNER) Kevin LaValle (R) – 65.12% – 8,228 votes 

Talat Hamandi (D) – 34.85% – 4,404 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 6th District: 

(WINNER) Sarah Anker (D) – 54.32% – 9,715 votes 

Gary Pollakusky (R) – 41.05% – 7,342 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 5th District: 

(WINNER) Kara Hahn (D) – 63.1% – 9,763 votes 

John McCormack (R) – 36.88% – 5,706 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 4th District: 

(WINNER) Thomas Muratore (R) – 58.97% – 7,275 votes 

David T. Bligh (D) – 39.23% – 4,839 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 16th District

(WINNER) Susan Berland (D) – 53.89% – 6,501 votes 

Hector Gavilla (R) – 46.08% – 5,559 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 13th District: 

(WINNER) Rob Trotta (R) – 61.99% – 10,385 votes 

Janet Singer (D) – 38.01% – 6,367 votes

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 18th District:

(WINNER) William “Doc” Spencer (D) – 61.47% – 11,998 votes 

Garrett Chelius (R) – 33.81% – 6,599 votes 

Daniel West (C) – 4.71% – 919 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 15th District:

(WINNER) DuWayne Gregory (D) – 72.15% – 7,037 votes

Chrisopher G. Connors (R) – 27.68% – 2,700 votes 

 

Huntington town council member – two seats:

(WINNER) Joan Cergol (D) – 26% – 20,882 votes 

(WINNER) Eugene Cook (R) – 24.81%- 19,931 votes 

Andre Sorrentino Jr. (R) – 24.07% – 19,336 votes 

Kathleen Clearly (D) – 23.38% – 18,777 votes 

 

Huntington Town Clerk: 

(WINNER) Andrew Raia (R) – 57.71% – 23,804 votes 

Simon Saks (D) – 42.28% – 17,441 votes 

 

Smithtown town council member – two seats: 

(WINNER) Thomas Lohmann (R) – 32.35% – 14,076 votes

(WINNER) Lisa Inzerillo (R) – 32% – 13,925 votes 

Richard S Macellaro (D) – 17.36% – 7,556 votes

Richard Guttman (D) – 17.32% – 7,535 votes 

 

 

 

Incumbent Susan Berland and challenger Hector Gavilla are vying for Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District seat. Berland of Dix Hills is the Democratic candidate and has served on the Legislature for the past two years. She served on the Huntington Town Council as a councilwoman for more than 16 years prior to being elected county lawmaker. 

Republican hopeful Hector Gavilla is seeking political office for the first time. In 2017, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 16th District seat which he lost to Berland. Gavilla has been a licensed real estate broker since 2003 and has run Commack-based Long Island Professional Realty since 2010.

The candidates are concerned with the future of the red-light camera program, the county financial situation, affordable housing and public safety. 

Red-light camera program:

The incumbent says she believes red-light cameras save lives. 

“People need to stop at a red light, they shouldn’t run through it and stop appropriately,” Berland said. “If people did that then you wouldn’t have the ‘money grab’ argument because they wouldn’t be paying the fines for them.”

Berland said there is a need for improvements in the program. She proposed looking at individual camera locations and potentially moving cameras to other problem areas. 

The incumbent also said they want to make sure they can oversee the placement of cameras once they get a new contractor. 

Gavilla disagreed saying the red-light camera program is a scam.  He argued that the cameras are placed disproportionally in low-income areas. 

“The county has discriminated by putting red-light cameras in low income communities,” he said. “There are none in the affluent areas [on the Island].” 

Though he admitted that if someone runs a red-light they deserve a ticket. 

Suffolk’s financial future:

The county’s finances have been one of the main topics of discussion in this year’s election season. According to a recent state comptroller report, Suffolk was under the most severe fiscal stress of any county in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million in 2018 and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

Gavilla said the county is spending money it doesn’t have. 

“The total [deficit] amount depends on who you speak to,” he said. 

If elected, the challenger would get rid of certain special taxes and fees. He would also look to consolidating services and making cuts in some departments. 

“We need to cut expenditures, we can do that very easily by going to department heads and employees and incentivizing them to find ways to cut their fees,” Gavilla said. 

Berland said when Bellone was elected to office, the county was $500 million dollars in debt. 

“There hasn’t been an increase in the property tax line and we have kept within the 2 percent cap,” she said.  

Berland said they are continuing to provide the services residents need, while acknowledging that the county has cut numerous government job position in the last few years. 

Affordable housing on Long Island/Town of Huntington:

The county legislator said there is a need to find affordable housing for everyone. 

“We need to be able to provide affordable housing, you have these [housing] developments built and then 20 to 30 years later it goes to market rate,” Berland said. 

The incumbent looked to the recent Ronkonkoma Hub project as a way they could provide affordable housing as well as keep working families and young people on the Island. 

Berland said she supports continued economic development in the town and giving more resources to schools. 

 The challenger on the other hand would look to bring back high paying jobs to the area. 

Gavilla said he wants to bring back Fortune 500 companies, mentioning that his own father worked for a subsidiary of Grumman when he was young. He also said he would work with state lawmakers to assist in bringing those jobs here. 

In addition, Gavilla said there is a tax problem that needs to be fixed. 

“Property taxes are too high and that affects everything,” he said. “ You have to keep business owners here.”

Public safety (opioids/vaping/gang violence):  

Gavilla said while visiting homes throughout the area people are happy that federal government officials are assisting in the fight against MS-13. 

“I’ve visited close to 5,000 homes … the Hispanic communities are happy the feds are involved,” he said. 

Gavilla said there is a need for increased police presence as he believes more can be done on the opioid epidemic as well. 

According to him, the Hispanic communities are against making parts of Suffolk County as sanctuary areas, saying “they want the bad guys out.” 

Berland agreed with Gavilla that more can be done with MS-13, but said the Suffolk Police Department is doing a good job. 

The incumbent said in terms of immigration, people that are committing crimes should be deported. 

Berland supports banning vaping in the county, saying it has created “a whole new generation of kids smoking.”

“We also need to crack down on the sale of opioids and increase Narcan training,” she said.