U.S. Reps. John Katko (NY-24) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) last week announced bipartisan legislation to increase tick-borne illness prevention and improve public health efforts in states like New York with high rates of tick-borne diseases.

ticks
Ixodes scapularis/CDC

“With steady increases in cases of tick-borne illnesses, like Lyme disease and Powassan, in Central and Upstate New York, it is critical that we work to move the ball forward on public health efforts to combat these diseases,” said Rep. John Katko. “The bipartisan legislation that I’ve introduced with Rep. Maloney will strengthen tick prevention efforts both through education and research.”

The Tick Identification Pilot Program Act of 2017 works to educate the general public on general tick-bite prevention methods, engage the public on tick-borne illnesses to improve public health outcomes, and collect data on tick populations as well as the frequency, seasonality, and geographic locations of tick encounters and/or bites.  Specifically, this legislation would establish a pilot grant program under the CDC allowing states to apply for grants to establish tick identification programs.  The tick identification programs would allow individuals to send pictures of ticks they encounter to a vector-borne biologist who would identify the tick and respond to the individual with:

  • The species and life stage of the tick;
  • An estimate of the risk that the tick is carrying a disease;
  • A recommendation of the best practices for the individual who encountered the tick (including seeking medical evaluation and submitting the tick for testing);
  • Additional education on best methods to avoid ticks and prevent contagion of tick-borne illnesses.

New York is home to one of four national Centers for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, funded by the CDC.  Operated by Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases leads our region in research on tick populations and tick-borne illnesses.  The resources already available to the Center make it a prime host for a tick identification program in New York State.

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“If you’re out hiking with your family or working on your farm and you get a tick bite, you should be able to get your hands on the tools you need to determine your level of risk and figure out your next steps,” said Rep. Maloney. “This pilot program will help states like New York bring our public outreach and education into the 21st century and give our people some peace of mind when they’re out enjoying nature.”