Politics & Government

N.C. budget cuts threaten tick studies

A small pool of money to study tick-borne illnesses in North Carolina and educate people about avoiding tick bites is threatened by budget cuts, leading advocates to question the state's commitment to curbing the infections.

The cuts come as North Carolina leads the nation in the number of cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever – a potentially fatal bacterial illness spread by the dog tick. Last year, 499 people in the state had confirmed cases of the disease, and the year before 665 people were infected.

Other tick-borne illnesses – including ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and a newly identified bacterial fever called Southern tick-associated rash illness – also are suspected of being on the rise in the state. But their true prevalence is unknown, and more research is needed to determine how large a threat the diseases present.

Some of that research was to be conducted with a $330,000 annual state grant – an allocation lawmakers began two years ago in response to fears that tick-borne illnesses were a growing problem in North Carolina.

Now, state senators have cut about $140,000 of the money in their budget. The funding would have paid for posters and pamphlets to educate the public about disease-carrying ticks, plus begin model tick control efforts in three counties.

In addition, some of the money would have helped pay for testing of 2,600 ticks collected last fall around the state. Different tick species carry different bacteria, so testing them builds scientific knowledge of how and where they spread diseases.

To read the complete article, visit www.newsobserver.com.

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