2018-07-12 / Editorial

Fight against ticks needs more federal support

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

There’s no better place to go outside in the summer than Maine. We have everything: mountains, lakes, rivers, trails, the ocean and great towns and cities. It’s called Vacationland for a reason.

I try to get my family outside as much as possible no matter the season, and I’m becoming more and more concerned about the number of ticks I’m finding on my kids. I’m sure you all have experienced the nerve wracking feeling of seeing one of those tiny-but-almost indestructible critters on your clothing or legs.

Scientists are saying that the problem is getting worse – more ticks are moving north into Maine and are proliferating and spreading around the state – and I believe them.

Ticks are not insects. They are more closely related to spiders. With ticks comes Lyme disease, which can cause excruciating pain, rashes, flu-like symptoms and more. There are also other symptoms, and severe cases can require drastic treatment. Lyme isn’t the only tick-borne disease that’s becoming a big problem in Maine, either.

For some reason, this is an easy problem for policymakers to overlook, but I talk to families constantly that are either worried about Lyme or have someone in the family that has contracted it. A tick check has sadly become a fact of Maine life as soon as you walk into your house.

That increasing danger means we need to focus more on supporting efforts to fight back against the ticks and the diseases they carry. In fact, Maine has a new research facility dedicated to figuring out the best way to combat these invaders. It’s located at the University of Maine and it’s run by one of my colleagues in the Maine Legislature, Sen. Jim Dill (D-Old Town). He’s an entomologist by trade and he deeply understands the need to get a handle on the tick problem. He’s called a pest management specialist, which must be why he’s such an effective legislator!

I want Jim’s lab and others like it to have all the resources needed to tackle the problem head-on. That’s why I’ve been a strong supporter of bills that fund boost tick research during my time in the statehouse.

As my friend and well-known outdoorsman George Smith said in 2015 about Maine’s growing tick problem, “I can only hope that legislators understand the terrible consequences of Lyme disease and the spread of ticks, and recognize the need for money to support the important work that should be funded.”

He’s absolutely right.

It’s also vitally important that the federal government make clear its commitment to anti-tick research. And Maine’s representatives to Congress have to be vocal supporters of the federal programs that exist to fund labs like Jim’s.

If nothing else, I want the folks reading this to be aware of the possible problems that can come from being bitten by a tick as well as the consequences of not letting your representatives know that this is an important issue. Please check your pets and kids thoroughly and support efforts by legislators to put more funding into research and pest management.

For more information on ticks, please check out the University of Maine’s website for Jim’s lab at: https:// extension.umaine.edu/ipm/. Some simple preventative measures and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way to keeping yourself safe - and that’s exactly what state and federal officials should be supporting.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative and candidate for US Congress serving his second term in the Maine Legislature, where he is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, Marty hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called ‘The Grow Maine Show’ which is available on Apple Podcasts. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or at facebook.com/repgrohman.

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