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Funding Bolstered to Fight Lyme Disease, Zika, West Nile Viruses
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 07/09/2018

Governor Tom Wolf bolstered funding to protect Pennsylvanians from Lyme disease, Zika Virus, and West Nile Virus as part of the recently signed budget. Increases to both the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Health (DOH) will go towards improving mosquito and tick surveillance and education about the diseases associated with these insects.

To help combat the drastic rise in Lyme disease cases in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf prioritized an additional $2.5 million in his 2018-19 budget to hire staff at the Department of Health to implement the recommendations of the Lyme Disease Task Force, which include building a more robust Lyme disease prevention and education program, conducting more well-rounded surveillance through activities like a statewide environmental survey, and improving participation in tick-borne disease surveillance with providers and local health departments.

"We appreciate the recognition that Lyme disease is a public health concern in Pennsylvania," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "With more recorded cases of Lyme than any other state, we are committed to taking steps to address Lyme disease in Pennsylvania. The notable increase in funding will help us accomplish this mission.

"The Lyme Disease Task Force developed a total of 18 recommendations that are critical to beginning the process of slowing, and then reducing the growing incidence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in the state. We are grateful for this funding to move this important initiative forward."

This year's budget also includes an increase of $139,000 to support DEP's West Nile Virus and Zika Virus control program, which will help to increase monitoring and control operations efforts. Funding will also be used for public education and events.

"The increased funding for Pennsylvania's Zika Virus and West Nile Virus program will be a boon for Pennsylvanians," said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. "Monitoring mosquito populations and controlling when necessary is an important function of DEP during the summer months when mosquitoes are at their peak and we're thrilled that the governor prioritized this funding to help more Pennsylvanians."

The budget also includes funding to increase protections for Pennsylvania's natural resources by providing an additional $2.5 million to enable the DEP to fill 35 mission critical positions throughout the agency, which will increase responsive oversight and improve customer service.

Pennsylvanians are strongly encouraged to take steps to reduce the risk of mosquito bites and possible mosquito breeding habitats around their homes or apartments. Simple steps like the following can reduce places where mosquito populations can flourish:

- Eliminate standing water -- kiddie pools, bird baths, wheelbarrows, and other places where water can stagnate can be magnets for mosquitoes.

- Clean clogged gutters -- gutters can be out of sight for most people, but not mosquitoes.

- Discard tires, plastic containers, or other refuse that can hold water -- even a small amount of water can allow mosquitoes to breed.

- Fix or replace broken window screens.

- Use insect repellent when outside.

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