The news last week that the Maine Center for Disease Control predicts 2012 will be the worst year for Lyme disease in Maine did not shock the people of Long Island.

And the report released last week by the Maine Medical Center’s Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory that showed the disease will spread across Maine by 2050 did not rattle this small island town in Casco Bay.

They confronted their Lyme disease nightmare two years ago when it became clear the number of confirmed cases on the island was mounting.

This is why Emily Jacobs, the town’s health officer, put together an impressive panel of Lyme disease experts who will gather on the island Saturday.

“The safest thing to do is to personally protect yourself. But you can’t tell people to dress up like it’s January, all covered up when it’s a hot summer day. I’m hoping a large audience shows up, and everyone hears the same thing,” Jacobs said.

After seeing more and more cases of Lyme disease on the island, Jacobs decided to try to get a handle on how prevalent the disease was there. So two years ago, she sent out a questionnaire to as many island residents and summer visitors as she could.

The response showed there were at least 43 people who spent time on Long Island who had a confirmed case of Lyme disease. On an island that has 220 year-round residents and as many as 900 summer visitors, Jacobs said the number was alarming.

Moreover, among the 220 year-round residents, there were 27 who reported to have a confirmed case of Lyme disease, more than 10 percent of the island’s winter population.

“Once I put out the statistics, suddenly there was a feeling on the island that we have an epidemic,” Jacobs said.

Concern has not died down. And two weeks ago, a 10-year-old boy became the most recent case of Lyme disease among the year-round residents.

So this spring, Jacobs decided to do the best thing she could for her island community. She asked as many experts on Lyme disease in Maine as she could find to come speak on the island.

She didn’t just ask for a biologist from the Maine CDC, she asked for two, as well as a biologist from a private pesticide company, one from the Maine Board of Pesticides, a biologist from the Maine Vector-borne Disease Laboratory, and also one from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

In all, eight experts will address the topic at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Vicky Delfino, president and founder of MaineLyme, a nonprofit that holds seminars to educate Lyme disease victims, said she’s never seen a Lyme seminar in Maine that will speak so thoroughly to causes and prevention.

“I think Long Island has been concerned for a while. I did a presentation for them two years ago before MaineLyme was formed. I know they had a number of cases of Lyme then, a large number of cases,” said Delfino, who has had Lyme disease for several years.

Jacobs said she felt that to quell the mania and help protect her neighbors and friends, they needed to be completely educated together.

“People are confused by it. I hope summer people come open up their cottages and come out, and everyone hears the same thing. That’s my purpose, good or bad. So we can understand it together, and so the mania dies down,” Jacobs said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]

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