Surge in Tick Species and Numbers Prompts Senators to Request $50 Million From Senate to Combat Rise

If you're planning to spend time outside this summer, make sure to do it while covered up.

An explosion in the Connecticut tick population has spurred several senators to call for a multimillion-dollar increase in state funding for research into ticks and tick-borne illnesses, according to local news station WTNH. Worryingly, the aforementioned explosion refers to tick abundance as well as tick diversity. In the past five years, three new species of the bloodsucking arachnids have been discovered locally, alarming scientists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES). Some of them have been found to carry as many as three different diseases, Blumenthal said at press conference held in New Haven on Friday morning.

"That poses an imminent, clear danger to Connecticut of exploding numbers of Lyme cases," he said, citing research that suggests that nearly half—46 percent—of deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Some 475,000 cases of Lyme disease are recorded in the United States annually, Kirby Stafford III, a scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), said, according to WTNH.

The disease, which can have lasting neurological effects, is so named because it was first detected among adults and children in the Connecticut town of Lyme in the 1970s. However, it's far from the only one you can contract from the eight-legged parasites, as CAES, which offers free tick identification and testing to residents, is finding.

"[S]ome of these new pathogens"—transmitted by the new species—"we just really don't know how they're going to behave when they're in Connecticut. They've never been here before," Jason White, the director of CAES, said, according to NBC Connecticut. That's why, he added, "we need the research to understand how these invasive organisms are...going to convey these pathogens and interact with humans."

The new species include the Lone Star tick, the Gulf Coast tick and the Asian longhorned tick, according to NBC Connecticut. The Lone Star tick is known to cause alpha-gal syndrome, an allergy to red meat so severe that it can cause breathing difficulties and even death.

On June 11, the day of the press conference, Blumenthal and fellow senators Chris Murphy, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bob Casey, and Edward J. Markey sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. In it, they requested an additional $50 million to further support the CDC's efforts to address tick-borne illnesses, according to Murphy's website. The spike in their incidence is often credited to climate change, which creates environmental conditions favorable to tick survival and activity.

Ticks crawl across a human finger.
Two ticks crawl across a human finger. The bloodsucking parasites are on the rise in the New England state of Connecticut. Getty Images