LONG ISLAND, N.Y. -- Tick-borne diseases on the East Coast are on the rise amid a push for more federal funds to combat the problem.
It's worse than ever on Long Island trails. A mild winter means a banner year for deer, dog and lone star ticks.
"Due to climate change, as well as Long Island being overrun by deer, the tick population has skyrocketed," said David Reisfield, president of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference.
Stony Brook University researcher Dr. Jorge Benach, who first identified the agent that causes Lyme disease, said finding ticks and removing them early is key to avoiding potentially crippling diseases.
"The tick that carries the Lyme disease organism carries six other organisms too. They can actually be transmitted together," said Benach, dean of research at Stony Brook. "Those are dangerous because they have the possibility of being fatal."
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That's why Sen. Chuck Schumer announced what he called a "war on ticks," a new $160 million push to beat back tick-borne diseases through more research, surveillance, education and eradication.
Schumer is seeking to double what's already been allocated.
"My message to Nassau, Suffolk County, and to any organizations that might want to apply, apply now," said Schumer. "New York is actually the number one Lyme disease state because we have a lot of ticks and a lot of people."
Schumer said some of the money could make a Lyme disease vaccine a reality. It's currently in clinical trials.
Alyssa Turano fought her own battle with babesiosis, which has seen a steep increase.
"I had removed several ticks. I had been hiking in the area," said Turano. "They tell you the red bullseye for Lyme disease, but that's not a symptom that I had."
Experts say enjoy the outdoors, but be vigilant. Check yourself while outside and again after. Prevention is the best medicine.
"You strip down and you check from head to toe," said Daniel Gleason, of Boy Scout Troop 76.
Experts say you have a much better chance of avoiding disease transmission if you find and remove a tick within 24 hours.
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