Press Release

Gillibrand Pushes For Increased Funding For Lyme Disease And Tick-Borne Illness Research

Jun 9, 2021

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called for $12 million for the Department of Defense’s Tick-Borne Disease Research Program (TBDRP) and additional funding for tick-borne disease research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New York State has experienced an overwhelming increase of ticks, Lyme disease, and other tick-borne diseases with 92,577 cases of Lyme being reported over the last two decades. Despite the high number of vector-borne diseases in New York and across the country, the federal investment in research and prevention for these diseases remains low, with just $191 spent per case of Lyme disease. 

“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 Senator Gillibrand. “New York has experienced 92,577 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.”

“When I became severely ill in 2010, it took ten doctors and multiple false negative test results before being diagnosed with Lyme disease and the co-infection babesia,” said New York advocate and Project Lyme Executive Committee Chairman David Roth. There are enormous gaps in our understanding of the pathology of these diseases and their treatment, and there is a tremendous need for better diagnostic tests. I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue and for consistently fighting for increased funding for research of these diseases.”

Senator Gillibrand’s $12 million request in appropriations funding for the Department of Defense’s Tick-Borne Disease Research Program (TBDRP) would support innovative research that addresses fundamental issues and knowledge gaps related to tick-borne illnesses. Additional funding for the implementation of the Kay Hagan Tick Act would help states build a public health infrastructure for Lyme and other vector-borne diseases to support early detection and diagnosis, improve treatment, and raise awareness and fund the Centers of Excellence for Lyme and tick-borne disease leading the scientific response against tick-borne diseases. It also would help HHS to develop a national strategy for vector-borne diseases, including tick-borne diseases, in an effort to coordinate efforts among various government agencies. Senator Gillibrand is also committed to securing funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand underfunded programs in the area of prevention to identify and validate prevention and control methods.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks, which can be transmitted through a bite to a human or animal. If left untreated, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi travels through the bloodstream, manifests itself in body tissues, and causes mild or severe symptoms, depending on the case. Lyme disease begins as a rash at the location of the tick bite and then spreads to the nervous system, heart, and joints. Early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment are crucial to recovery, and appropriate antibiotic use in the early stages of Lyme disease typically results in a swift recovery. Untreated and undiagnosed Lyme disease can lead to debilitating effects on a person’s health. Currently, there are at least 18 known infectious tick-borne pathogens, with 20 conditions and 13 illnesses resulting from tick bites. The United States has more than doubled the number of Lyme disease cases reported 15 years ago, nearing 500,000 cases and costing an estimated $1.3 billion in direct medical costs annually. New York State remains the #1 target for tick-related disease in the United States. For more information on reported New York Lyme disease cases by county, click here.

Senator Gillibrand has long fought for federal funding for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, which have contributed to a major spike in cases across New York State. For the past several years, Gillibrand’s tireless advocacy has delivered increased funding for Lyme and tick-borne disease research in the yearly government funding package, including $16 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the 2021 bipartisan package. This funding amounts to a $2 million increase over the previous year’s level. After securing the Kay Hagan Tick Act in the 2019 yearly government funding package, she continued her fight to secure an additional $5 million in funding to help New York and other states combat tick-related disease. She previously secured a $2 billion increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, which could be used to expand and build upon existing NIH-funded Lyme disease research that is already occurring at New York institutions, such as Stony Brook, Columbia University, in the SUNY system, and at Hunter College. 

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s FY22 request letter calling  for DoD funding can be found here.

For more information on Reported New York Lyme Disease Cases by County, click here.