When you can go for a walk without wearing gloves, it’s time to take precautions.

Coined by the Island Lyme disease prevention and awareness group, this new saying on the Vineyard serves as a potent reminder about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. In about two weeks, when the weather warms enough to put away the winter gloves, deer ticks will be abundant on the Island, especially in wooded places. Everyone who goes outdoors for work or recreation should take precautions such as wearing pants tucked into socks with boots, using repellents and checking themselves carefully for the tiny ticks that are smaller than a freckle. Ticks carry bacteria that can cause debilitating illness, including Lyme disease.

Islanders have long known about and suffered from the effects of these illnesses.

Against that backdrop, it’s encouraging to see a new age of clinical research, information and education emerge around this growing public health problem.

Six Island boards of health have been working as one in recent years to raise awareness about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. Biologist Richard Johnson is the unofficial Vineyard tick czar, using ongoing studies in the field to document the prevalence of ticks and rates of disease they carry. Some of his work has yielded troubling results, including the recent discovery of a large area of nesting Lone star ticks on Chappaquiddick. The southern species, even more pernicious than deer ticks with their ability to move quickly and inflict a painful bite, were not known to exist on the Island until recently.

But amid ongoing study and new knowledge, old myths persist, especially about Lyme disease and how it is spread. White-tailed deer who act as hosts for female deer ticks during their reproductive cycle are the primary culprits in the spread of the disease, as explained by Mr. Johnson in an op-ed in today’s Gazette.

With the deer population on the Vineyard at an all-time high, the boards of health have opened a thoughtful if controversial discussion about developing a plan to cull the deer herd on the Island. More discussion will be needed, but early information from places where deer herds have been reduced is encouraging. As outlined by Mr. Johnson in his op-ed today, in one community in Connecticut where the herd was reduced, the tick population fell dramatically. On Naushon island in the Elizabeth island chain, where the deer herd has been nearly eliminated by coyotes, blood tests taken from residents show a noticeable drop in Lyme antibodies.

We don’t want coyotes on the Vineyard — that would bring other problems. But it is imperative to take steps to reduce the tick population and the incidence of Lyme disease. Culling the deer herd appears to be a good way to achieve that goal. Let’s keep the discussion going.

Meanwhile, in the medical community clinical trials are under way led by Dr. Leona Prisco at Vineyard Medical Care in Vineyard Haven that aim to develop better diagnosis and treatment for Lyme disease.

Awareness about the disease has even reached the corridors of Beacon Hill in Boston, where a bill pending in the state legislature would require health insurers to cover the cost of antibiotic treatment for chronic Lyme when prescribed by a physician. The bill is an important acknowledgment for people who suffer from long-term effects of Lyme disease that their condition is being taken seriously. Whether antibiotic treatment ultimately will prove to be the best answer for this problem will be up to the medical community, but for now many doctors agree it is best available option. On the Vineyard where Lyme disease is widespread, this is a modest but meaningful step in finding a larger solution.