Katko renews push for bill to support tick ID programs, like one at SUNY Upstate

U.S. Rep. John Katko speaks at a press conference at SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Institute for Human Performance Building in Syracuse on Monday. He was flanked by SUNY Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan, right, and Dr. Saravanan Thangamani, who is the director of the SUNY Center for Environmental Health and Medicine. 

Dr. Saravanan Thangamani

Robert Harding

SYRACUSE — Flanked by experts from SUNY Upstate Medical University, U.S. Rep. John Katko highlighted the need for Congress to pass his bill that aims to boost tick surveillance programs. 

Katko, R-Camillus, announced Monday that he is reintroducing legislation that would establish a pilot program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to award grants to states for tick identification programs. The bill is inspired by the tick testing program at Upstate’s Thangamani Lab led by Dr. Saravanan Thangamani, who is the director of the SUNY Center for Environmental Health and Medicine. 

The lab has tested 13,286 ticks since April 2019. Nearly one-third (32.7%) had pathogens associated with tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis or Powassan encephalitis. 

The tick population is increasing in central New York, Katko and the experts told reporters at the press conference inside SUNY Upstate’s Institute for Human Performance. Thangamani said there are not only more ticks, but there are more pathogens being found in the ticks. 

“It’s very important that we continue to do what we are doing,” Thangamani said of his lab’s work. 

Katko’s bill would help encourage other states to implement similar programs. The pilot programs he proposes would allow individuals to take pictures of ticks and submit them for review by a biologist. The scientists would respond with an estimate of whether the tick is carrying disease and suggest follow-up action, according to Katko’s office. 

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