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Mobile App Could Help Identify Dangerous Ticks Carrying Diseases if Rep Katko Bill Passes Congress

Chris Bolt/WAER News

SUNY Upstate and SUNY ESF experts on diseases from ticks stood with Congress Member John Katko to support a new proposal that could aid in reducing the impacts. 

Katko has introduced a bipartisan bill that would get the CDC to fund a program to help people figure out if ticks they find in their yard or on their family members are putting them at risk.

“Individuals and families out enjoying nature, or working on a farm or outdoors cutting their lawn or in their woods in the warmer months, would be able to take a photo of a tick and using an app send it to a vector borne (disease) biologist who would identify the tick and provide rapid identification of the tick.”

They could also determine the likelihood that such a tick carries disease … and suggest next steps if a person was exposed to infection.  Experts at Upstate and ESF might well be the ones making those identifications.  They’re seeing an explosion of tick-borne disease transmission.  Upstate Professor of Immunology Kris Paolino is growing more and more concerned.

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
Upstate Medical is doing research on the types of ticks found in CNY and identifying the viruses and other diseases they might carry.

“I have seen a steady increase in the cases of Lyme (disease) every single year that I’ve been here, and we’re early in this year and I’ve already seen a ton of cases.  It’s not just Lyme that I’m worried about.  We’ve had some life-threatening cases of babesiosis, there’ve been some anaplasmosis cases.  Powassan is always a threat, although fortunately enough it’s rare.”  

In addition to pushing for the CDC tick identification program, they want to raise public awareness about the threat.  Both Upstate and E-S-F experts say they’re using permethrin  repellant on their clothes in addition to other repellants on their skin whenever they go out in nature or even in their yards.  Katko believes the tick-identification bill will pass, given the money for the program is already in the CDC budget. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.