Washington, D.C.—Although much of the attention on public health is rightly focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Susan Collins is urging Mainers to continue to take precautions to protect themselves from tick-borne illnesses as the height of tick season approaches. Senator Collins is a member of the Health Committee and the author of the Kay Hagan Tick Act, which became law last year.
“With more people exercising outdoors due to COVID-19 restrictions, the risk of tick-borne diseases has increased. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, an opportunity to remind everyone to remain on the lookout for ticks and to take steps to protect themselves from tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease,”said Senator Collins. “As the author of the Tick Act, I am committed to implementing the national strategy our law creates to slow the spread of these diseases and help protect Mainers’ health.”
The University of Maine Tick Lab has reportedly experienced an influx of tick submissions for testing this spring. According to the Bangor Daily News, the lab has received 780 ticks so far this year, a number they did not reach until June 10th last year.
From the time a tick bites, it generally takes about 36 hours for the host to be infected with the Lyme bacteria. Anyone who is bitten should remove the tick with tweezers or a tick spoon, being careful to remove the entire tick, and wash the bite location thoroughly. They should also note the date of the bite and monitor their health conditions daily, watching out for any fever, achiness, fatigue or the telltale red bull’s-eye ring around the bite. If symptoms do occur, see your doctor immediately. The sooner treatment begins, the better.
Using a three-pronged approach, Senator Collins’ Tick Act:
1. Requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a National Strategy. This will help expand research, improve testing and treatment, and coordinate common efforts across federal agencies including with DOD, USDA, EPA, the VA, and the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security
2. Reauthorizes Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease for five years at $10 million per year. These Centers have led the scientific response against tick-borne diseases, which now make up 75 percent of vector-borne diseases in the U.S.
3. Authorizes CDC Grants at $20 million per year that will be awarded to State Health Departments to improve data collection and analysis, support early detection and diagnosis, improve treatment, and raise awareness. These awards will help states build a public health infrastructure for Lyme and other tick and vector-borne diseases and amplify their initiatives through public-private partnerships.
In September 2019, Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, convened a field hearing at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Diagnostic and Research Laboratory Tick Lab in Orono.
In 2016, Congress took a critical step forward with the enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, which created a federal Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group. This Working Group released its first report in November 2018, which created several recommendations for next steps. The Tick Act put the report’s key recommendations into practice.