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Congresswoman Pingree participates in Maine tick field survey today

Has led efforts in Congress to make Lyme and other tick-borne diseases a higher federal priority

Pingree picks ticks off a survey flag with Maine Medical Center Research Institute researcher Chuck Lubelczyk

Today Congresswoman Chellie Pingree participated in a tick field survey at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth with researchers from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory.  The visit was part of her ongoing efforts to support Maine in addressing the rise in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

“Over the last 10 years in Maine, ticks have gone from an occasional nuisance to a constant worry.  Last year had the highest number of Lyme disease cases in Maine on record and other tick-borne diseases have been on the rise as well,” said Pingree.  “To help the public limit their risk, it’s critical that we closely monitor where ticks are abundant and what they’re carrying.  I’m glad I got to see to see that important work in action today with the great folks at the Vector-Borne Disease Laboratory.”

For the survey, Pingree helped researchers drag pieces of fabric over bushes and leafy debris alongside a frequently used trail at the park.  In just a short time, Pingree collected several larval deer ticks, about the size of grains of salt. The results of these kinds of surveys help the lab determine trends in tick populations throughout the year as well as year to year.  The specimens collected today will also be tested for Powassan virus, a dangerous diseases carried by deer ticks. 

“I knew deer ticks could be small, but these were absolutely tiny.  They were very hard to see even on white fabric with the help of an experienced scientist, so you know they would be incredibly difficult to spot on your clothes or a child,” said Pingree.  “It showed me that we have to be increasingly vigilant in limiting our risk and exposure when we spend time outdoors, but that the overall problem goes beyond what we can do as individuals. We need to take the proper steps to address it as a whole, from managing tick populations to responding quickly to disease outbreaks.” 

Pingree has helped lead efforts in Congress to make Lyme and other tick-borne diseases a higher federal priority.  Through her role on the House Appropriations Committee, Pingree has worked successfully to pass increased research funding on Lyme disease, as well as legislative language that pushes relevant federal agencies to bring more attention to the disease.  She has also requested more funding for tick management through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asked the FDA to support the development of more accurate Lyme disease tests, and urged that the patient perspective be included in the development of new guidelines for treatment.

“Addressing the recent rise in ticks and the diseases they carry is a very complicated issue that will take the work of many partners.  But I think the federal government has an important role to play and could definitely be doing more, especially in the area of funding for research and monitoring,” said Pingree. “I’m proud that I’ve been able to make some gains in this area and it’s definitely encouraged me to keep fighting.”

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