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Reps. Katko, Maloney Unveil Bipartisan Legislation to Combat Tick-Borne Diseases Plaguing Upstate New York

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. John Katko (NY-24) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18)  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.

“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.

“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.”

“This legislation is timely. Tick-borne disease threats in New York State are at an all-time high.  There is a critical need for more information on expanding tick distributions, as well as the development of new strategies and landscape management for controlling and reducing New York’s exposure to ticks and diseases, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, Powassan/deer tick virus and other novel tick-borne parasites that are poised to invade our region,” said Laura Harrington, Program Director of the CDC Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-borne Diseases.  “In addition, much of the public information about ticks and Lyme disease in the region is inaccurate.  The Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases is uniquely poised to address these issues for citizens of New York State and the greater Northeast region.”

Philip Baker, Executive Director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, said, “The American Lyme Disease Foundation supports this legislation. It is likely to provide useful information in the development of programs for the control of tick-borne diseases, especially in areas where such infections are endemic.”

“Oswego County has seen increased Lyme diseases cases year by year over the past several years, from five cases in 2009 to 106 in 2017.  Our county has worked hard to educate students, parents, the outdoorsman community, and the general public about tick-borne illnesses and the best practices to prevent tick bites.  Congressman Katko’s bill will help rural counties like Oswego to strengthen tick-borne illness prevention efforts and aims to curb disease rates,” said Jiancheng Huang, Director of Public Health, Oswego County, NY.

As a result of the rapidly rising number of tick-borne disease cases in New York State, a bipartisan group of members from the New York delegation have cosponsored the Tick Identification Pilot Program Act of 2017, including Reps. King (NY-02), Clarke (NY-09), Engel (NY-16), Tonko (NY-20), Stefanik (NY-21), Tenney (NY-22), Reed (NY-23), Donovan (NY-11), and Faso (NY-19.)

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