U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that following their fierce advocacy, $16 million in federal funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to combat Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is included in the recently passed bipartisan government funding package. The $16 million in funding amounts to a $2 million increase over last year’s level. Through their advocacy, Schumer and Gillibrand also delivered $5 million in new funding for the Kay Hagan Tick Act — co-sponsored by the senators — to require the CDC to enhance surveillance of Lyme and tick-borne diseases and fund the Centers of Excellence for Lyme and tickborne disease. The senators additionally announced that the Department of Defense’s Tick Borne Disease Research Program will remain funded at $7 million. New York State remains the #1 target for tick-related disease in the United States and the FY21 funding will be vital to the continued research, identification and exposure prevention to vector-borne pathogens that cause Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
“Upstate New York has felt the brutal bite of Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases for years now, and thankfully this sorely-needed increase in CDC funding and the Kay Hagan Tick Act will provide the resources needed to strike back,” said Senator Schumer. “New Yorkers and their children shouldn’t have to worry that spending time in their backyards will leave them with a debilitating ailment like Lyme disease, and this funding will help prevent that. I was proud to lead the charge in securing the crucial funding to combat the spread of tick-borne diseases throughout New York and will keep fighting until we can stamp out these pernicious diseases.”
“Upstate New York is a hotspot for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases and this funding increase will deliver vital resources for our state to combat them,” said Senator Gillibrand. “New Yorkers have felt the impact of tick-borne illness for years. We need to step up our investments in research, surveillance, prevention, and outbreak response to protect our communities. Thankfully, New York institutions — including Stony Brook, Columbia University, Hunter College, and others in the SUNY system — are at the forefront of this battle. I’m proud to deliver this critical funding for our work to prevent Americans from suffering from the often-devastating and life-altering impacts of tick-borne illness.”
The funding for the CDC, secured by Schumer and Gillibrand, will specifically be used to target vector-borne pathogens which cause diseases in humans. The funding will contribute to a better understanding of when, where, and how people become exposed to vector-borne pathogens, as well as boost prevention efforts related to vector-borne pathogens and mitigate potential consequences of infection. Additionally, the funding will be used to help implement vector-borne disease diagnostics, surveillance, control, and prevention programs.
Both Schumer and Gillibrand co-sponsored the bipartisan Kay Hagan Tick Act named in honor of the late Senator Kay Hagan who passed away due to complications from Powassan virus, a rare tick-borne disease. After securing the Kay Hagan Tick Act in last year’s yearly government funding package, the senators continued their fight to secure an additional $5 million in funding to help New York and other states combat tick-related disease. The bill requires HHS to develop a national strategy for vector-borne diseases, including tick-borne diseases, in an effort to coordinate efforts among various government agencies. The bill also reauthorizes the Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease for five years at $10 million per year. Schumer and Gillibrand noted that this is especially important for New York State, as Cornell University is home to the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases. Lastly, the Kay Hagan Tick Act allows the CDC to make grants to state, local, and tribal health departments in order to improve the ability to identify, report, prevent, and respond to vector-borne diseases and related outbreaks.
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 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.
Senator Schumer and Gillibrand have 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 three years, the senators’ tireless advocacy has delivered increased funding for Lyme and tick-borne disease research in the yearly government funding package. Schumer and Gillibrand also previously secured a $2 billion increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, which can 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.