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Blumenthal & Gillibrand Lead Push for Increased CDC Funding to Combat Lyme Disease & Other Tick-Borne Illnesses

The senators are calling for $50 million in funding for the CDC to address the public health threat of Lyme disease

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led the push for a surge in federal funding to prevent and address Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. In a letter sent today to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies with U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), the senators called for $50 million to bolster the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to prevent and address tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, including $20 million for grants for states. Blumenthal also called for $12 million to support the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Tick-Borne Disease Research Program in a letter co-led with Gillibrand sent earlier this week.

“We are sounding the alarm because the number of ticks is exploding nationwide, and the new species are invading Connecticut. With a mild winter, early spring, and lots of rainfall the stage is set for an increasing number of ticks, and the rate of detecting Lyme disease at 46 percent is pretty constant and pretty alarming. About half the ticks you find will have Lyme disease. If you find a tick on you, have it tested. If you are going into the woods wear long sleeves and long pants, and take insect repellant,” said Blumenthal during a press conference today at the Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, Connecticut, announcing the letter.

“New York is a hotspot for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, and our communities have felt the impact of these diseases for years,” said Gillibrand. “New York has experienced nearly one hundred thousand reported Lyme cases alone over the past two decades. Vector-borne diseases are a growing public health crisis, and it’s critical we deliver funding for research, surveillance, prevention, and outbreak response to help us combat the often-devastating and life-altering impacts of these illnesses.”

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by deer ticks, which are typically found in wooded and grassy areas. At least 300,000 people nationwide are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, and the incidence of this disease has increased by more than 300 percent over the past 25 years, in part due to climate change.

“Despite the rising incidence and costs of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses like Powassan, research into strategies for preventing, diagnosing, treating, and surveilling these diseases has historically been underfunded. The CDC invests only $191 for each new Lyme disease case, despite the high health care costs endured by many individuals with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and our health care system as a whole,” wrote the senators in the letter. “Increased funding would enable the CDC to expand underfunded programs in the area of prevention to identify and validate prevention and control methods, as well as to develop alternate surveillance techniques such as from medical records.”

The full text of the senators’ FY22 request letter calling for CDC funding can be found here.