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Gillibrand requests federal money to fight tick-borne illnesses

Erik Karits

Federal lawmakers are pushing for more money to fight ticks and Lyme disease.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said the spread of Lyme disease is affecting military readiness and national security. And she said Fort Drum in the North Country is the biggest location of tick-borne illnesses.

"Part of Fort Drum's location is so the 10th Mountain Division can train in rugged terrain, and anywhere a deer lives, that's where you're going to get ticks," she said.

Gillibrand said the effects go far beyond military bases. In 2022, more than 16,000 Lyme disease cases were reported in New York state, and nearly half of adult deer ticks collected carry the bacteria that causes the disease.

"As the influence of suburban development and climate change expand tick ranges and increase the risk of tick-borne illnesses, the threat to our families, our service members, and our community only grows," said Gillibrand.

Gillibrand said federal research and prevention efforts have been historically underfunded, so she’s pushing to add nearly $200 million for the fight in next year’s government funding bill.

She said $30 million will go toward the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a national strategy against the diseases, $9 million will go to support the Department of Defense’s Tick-Borne Disease Research Program, $30 million will go to the CDC, and $130 million will go toward Lyme and tick research at the National Institutes of Health.

"Part of being able to combat tick-borne illnesses is to make sure the doctors understand what the symptoms are,” said Gillibrand. “For decades, people were not diagnosed properly. A lot of people with tick-borne illnesses were told it was all in their head."

Lyme disease can cause serious nervous system, heart, or joint issues.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.