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State funds boost fight against tick- and mosquito-borne diseases

Patrick Varine
| Saturday, July 7, 2018, 8:30 a.m.
An illustration shows the lifespan of a black-legged tick, or deer tick, which is the most likely to infect a person with Lyme disease.
Submitted photo
An illustration shows the lifespan of a black-legged tick, or deer tick, which is the most likely to infect a person with Lyme disease.

State budget increases for the Department of Environmental Protection as well as the Department of Health will be directed to the fight against insect-borne diseases, some of which are on the rise in Pennsylvania.

An additional $2.5 million in the 2018-19 budget will go toward mosquito and tick surveillance and education about the diseases associated with the insect pests.

The health department will use the funding to implement the recommendations of the state's Lyme Disease Task Force , and $139,000 will be put toward the DEP's West Nile and Zika virus control program.

The PA Lyme Resources Network, which tracks the numbers in Pennsylvania , found Lyme disease diagnoses have increased 25 percent a year over the last four years.

And for the past six years, Pennsylvania has led the country with the most new cases of Lyme — more than 12,000 residents contracted the disease in 2016, according to network officials.

“We appreciate the recognition that Lyme disease is a public health concern in Pennsylvania,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said. “With more recorded cases of Lyme than any other state, we are committed to taking steps to address Lyme disease in Pennsylvania. The notable increase in funding will help us accomplish this mission.

“The Lyme Disease Task Force developed a total of 18 recommendations that are critical to beginning the process of slowing and then reducing the growing incidence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in the state,” she said. “We are grateful for this funding to move this important initiative forward.”

Locally, the Westmoreland Conservation District will host a July 18 seminar on preventing infection by ticks and mosquitoes.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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