NEW HAVEN, CT — Tick-borne diseases, in the words of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, “are becoming an epidemic” in the state of Connecticut.
On Wednesday, Blumenthal and Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Director Dr. Theodore Andreadis, held a press conference to urge residents to be vigilant about protecting themselves, their children and their pets from ticks.
“This year will be the worst ever,” Blumenthal said. “The numbers of bites and infections are rising.”
Blumenthal and Andreadis said that Connecticut is seeing a surge in ticks infected with not just Lyme, but Babsesia and Powassan and other serious diseases.
One of the biggest areas of concerns, both Blumenthal and Andreadis said, is that not only are the number of ticks being tested by the agricultural station continually increasing, but also increasing is the percentage of ticks testing positive for Lyme or other diseases.
“Over the last five years this station has had 27 percent of the number of ticks tested, test positive for disease,” Blumenthal said. “This year that percentage is up to 38 percent.”
“We’re here to sound the alarm,” Blumenthal said. “These diseases can literally change lives – and not for the better.”
Andreadis said the number of ticks coming in for testing at the center “has been astronomical.”
He said in an average year the center tests about 3,000. “Since February (of this year, we’ve had 5,000 ticks tested,” Andreadis said.
Blumenthal said he didn’t like to make the issue of Lyme disease “political,” but said President Donald Trump’s budget drastically cuts funding for programs that helps fight diseases such as Lyme.
“I’m going to be fighting for more investment for places like this,” Blumenthal said, referring to the agricultural experiment station. He said the cuts were “irresponsible and reprehensible.”
Blumenthal noted that Lyme got its name from Connecticut (the town of Lyme).
But he said many states are seeing increasing numbers of ticks.
Blumenthal added some of those states are “Red States,” which he described as a positive, because it meant that both Democrat and Republican politicians are aware of the dangers and support efforts to combat it.
Andreadis said one reason Lyme and related diseases are on the uptick in Connecticut is “because 60 percent of this state is forested.”
“This problem is not going away,” he added.
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States and can cause severe damage to joints and the nervous system.
Both Blumenthal and Andreadis said one sobering statistic about Lyme disease is that experts estimate that for every one diagnosed case, there are another nine that are not officially diagnosed.
Blumenthal and Andreadis added that besides checking yourself and your children for ticks, wear protective clothing and repellent, make sure you check your outside pets, too.
“Checking your children thoroughly for ticks when they come in from playing outside is very important,” Blumenthal said, adding he knows that it isn’t a fun exercise for parent – or child.
“Believe me, I know,” Blumenthal said. “I have four children and I’ve been through it.”
Blumenthal was one of the leading advocates in helping pass the 21st Century Cures Act which requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support research related to tick-borne diseases.