PLAINVIEW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island is leading the country in tick-borne illnesses this season, and now there’s a new effort to push for federal dollars to fight Lyme disease.

More ticks have been reported in Suffolk County than any other county in America.

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“I was hiking. I went through some brush, and I actually saw a tick on my chest. I was wearing light colors, so I was able to see it. I brushed it right off,” said Harrison Feuer, of Long Island.

Olivia Marie, of Oakdale, was not so lucky. She doesn’t know when and where the tick got her, but after eight weeks of sufferin acute pain and fatigue, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“At the height, I had meningitis, sepsis and Bell’s palsy,” she said.

Infectious disease specialists believe the COVID pandemic allowed the bloodsucking ticks to flourish, feasting off animals and spreading to humans.

Plainview moms Annamaria Licandro and Sharon Goldberg say they worry about their children and family pets.

“I could actually see the little legs crawling in there and that scared me,” Licandro said.

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“I was pulling up my sock because I felt like there was, like, something creepy crawly, so, I mean, it’s definitely a concern and there is a lot of wildlife,” Goldberg said.

Not all ticks carry disease, but the black-legged or deer tick can spread Lyme.

With the spike in cases, Sen. Chuck Schumer is again pushing for more federal dollars for a Lyme vaccine.

“Senator, in mere months, there was the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Why is it taking decades to develop a Lyme vaccine?” CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan asked.

“Lyme disease is much more inscrutable. It affects different parts of the body in different ways. More dollars could greatly hasten the discovery of a vaccine and its application,” Schumer said.

“All we have learned from RNA vaccines from COVID, right, developing in one year, right? We can transfer that technology to a tick vaccine, so this is amazing news,” said Dr. Luis Marcos, with Stony Brook Medicine.

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He’s pleased with more funding, but says until there’s a vaccine, be your own advocate — seek medical advice and get tested for Lyme.

Jennifer McLogan