CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree joined researchers from Maine Medical Center on Monday to look for ticks at Crescent Beach State Park.
Researchers from the Vector-borne disease laboratory at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute on Aug. 17 swept an area of woods at the state park to find ticks with Lyme disease and Powassan virus.
The Maine Democratic congresswoman helped by dragging corduroy flags across the area and then using tweezers to put the captured ticks into vials.
Pingree collected several larval deer ticks, which will be sent to the lab to be tested. She said she’s spent a lot of time over the past few years looking at tick-related diseases and how to raise awareness and increase prevention.
She said Lyme disease is the third most common infectious disease in the state, but she thinks only one in 10 people report tick bites.
“It might be the No. 1 infectious disease in Maine, yet it’s severely underfunded compared to a lot of other diseases that we deal with and not enough research is being done about everything from how to treat it to how to prevent it,” Pingree said.
The lawmaker said she wants to remind others in Congress about the serious nature of tick-related diseases. She said there should be more funding to prevent and treat the diseases.
“Addressing the recent rise in ticks and the diseases they carry is a very complicated issue that will take the work of many partners,” Pingree said. “But I think the federal government has an important role to play and could definitely be doing more, especially in the area of funding for research and monitoring.”
Pingree said other members of Congress aren’t as supportive of the issue because they’re not aware of how serious the problem is. She said she plans to talk about her experience at Crescent Beach State Park with other lawmakers.
She also said the experience of collecting ticks with the researchers was eye opening for her, too.
“It showed me that we have to be increasingly vigilant in limiting our risk and exposure when we spend time outdoors, but that the overall problem goes beyond what we can do as individuals,” Pingree said. “We need to take the proper steps to address it as a whole, from managing tick populations to responding quickly to disease outbreaks.”