SYRACUSE— A swelling numbers of ticks reported in central New York this season along with a rise in Lyme disease cases is spurring local leaders to organize a response.

U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, along with representatives from SUNY Upstate Medical University and SUNY College of Environment Science and Forestry announced the re-introduction of the Tick Identification Pilot Program Act this week.

The bipartisan bill would establish a pilot program giving states the opportunity to apply for federal grants in order to create tick identification programs, according to Katko.

Individuals would have the opportunity to send pictures of ticks they find to a vector-borne biologist, who would identify it, and assess the risk of disease it could be carrying. The biologist could also recommend follow-up action, including the possibility of medical treatment if they felt it warranted it.

“Although Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses have had a dire impact on our region for years, we’ve seen dramatic growth in the local tick population in recent months,” Katko said. “And, we’ve seen a greater potential for tick-borne illness. I’m proud to continue my efforts to deploy innovative technologies against tick-borne illnesses and increase federal resources for the treatment and prevention of these diseases.”

Experts from SUNY Upstate Medical University and SUNY ESF also weighed in on the issue. 

President of SUNY Upstate Medical University, Mantosh Dewan, M.D. said like so many other parts of the country, the state of New York has been invaded with ticks putting many people at risk for disease.

“With the recent opening of our Vector-Biology Laboratory, and our complement of expert faculty, researchers and clinicians, Upstate is working to unlock the mystery of tick-borne diseases and address new treatments," Dewan said.

Brian Leydet PhD, assistant professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY ESF praised Katko and his fellow members of Congress for their efforts in this serious and potentially deadly matter.

 “Initiatives like those proposed by Congressman Katko and his colleagues, pushing increased federal support for education, awareness, treatment and prevention are critical to combat these emerging threats to human health.” Leydet said.

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