The tick population and tick-borne diseases are steadily increasing in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast according to scientists. In response, Senator Richard Blumenthal announced a federal grant to enhance research efforts into mosquito and tick-borne diseases.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station said 38 percent of the ticks they’ve tested are positive for Lyme and there’s an abundance of them. Director Dr. Theodore Andreadis said in the last two seasons they’ve seen a 10-fold increase in the number of ticks coming into their laboratory. Andreadis said this month alone they’ve received about 500 ticks, with similar numbers last month -- compared with past years when they saw around 20 in the same time frame.
"I can honestly say there’s virtually no region of Connecticut that you can go into where you’re not going to potentially be exposing yourself to ticks," Andreadis said. "They are everywhere."
Blumenthal announced a $3.25 million grant recently received by the New Haven facility -- part of a $10 million federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to join with Cornell University, Columbia University, Fordham University, and the New York and Connecticut Departments of Health to establish a Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases.
The major award will enhance research efforts into mosquito and tick-borne diseases, including West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Lyme, Babesia, Powassan, and Zika.
Blumenthal said Lyme cases are routinely underreported, undertreated, and underdiagnosed.
"The reporting mechanism is so patchy and incomplete," Blumenthal said. "Doctors are treating Lyme, they don’t report it, and the Department of Public Health doesn’t hear about it."
The estimated number of Lyme cases in Connecticut is around 30,000.
Blumenthal also released a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price seeking an update on efforts to establish a tick-borne disease working group as required by the 21st Century Cures Act.