Federal Lyme disease bill introduced

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A group of congressmen have reintroduced bipartisan legislation designed to strengthen efforts by the federal government to fight, treat, and prevent tick-borne disease in the United States.

A group of bi-partisan U.S. Representatives have re-introduced legislation, HR 220, that is co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and others.

The bill was first introduced in 2018, and reintroduced on Jan. 3 the first session of the 116th Congress.

In a press release issued by his office, Rep. Smith said, “The 2018 report of the Department of Health and Human Services’s Tick-Borne Disease Working Group made it clear — tick-borne diseases are spreading rapidly and are far outpacing our current national response to this problem. My bipartisan legislation would create a new national strategy on Lyme disease and better coordinate efforts across federal agencies to make sure our response is targeted and effective. We must have all hands on deck to combat these diseases.”

“The strategy outlined by the National Tick-Borne Diseases Control and Accountability Act will help improve our ability to research, diagnose, and treat these rapidly growing threats,” said Rep. Peterson. “As a co-chair of the Congressional Lyme Disease Congress, I understand the importance of a coordinated federal response to Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.”

The press release notes that: “Nationally-known expert and advisor Pat Smith, President of the Ocean County, New Jersey-based Lyme Disease Association, is on the HHS Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.

She said, “Everyone deserves protection against Lyme disease, yet Lyme has marched forward unchallenged across the U.S. for decades, disabling many including our most precious resources, our children, who are a high risk group.” 

“The Center for Disease Control announced in its Vital Signs monthly report that tick-borne disease case numbers have doubled between 2004-2016, and the U.S. is not prepared to deal with this threat — a fact substantiated by the 2017 record number of CDC-reported Lyme cases, 42,743,” said Pat Smith. “Factoring in under-reporting, 427,430 new Lyme cases occurred in the U.S. alone in 2017, a staggering number, which does not include other tick-borne diseases and disorders facing Americans.”

“Tick vectors of disease continue to proliferate unchecked, and the recent emergence over last year of a new self-cloning tick in the U.S. that can lay up to 2,000 eggs, longicornis (Asian longhorned tick) — that has already spread to nine states — should signal that we have a new enemy, yet we still have no idea what damage this one can do,” noted Pat Smith. “This bill provides a plan for a national strategy under HHS to help, through research, patients already debilitated by Lyme/TBD — fighting for diagnosis, treatment and for their very lives — and to help prevent others from facing the same fate by developing methods of tick control. The time for Congress to act on this bill is now. Losing this war is not an option, everyone is a potential casualty.”

The key provisions in the Smith-Peterson legislation are:

Creates the Office of Oversight and Coordination for Tick-Borne Disease at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to oversee federal efforts to prevent and treat Lyme disease.

– Calls for a new national strategy on tick-borne diseases, and requires the HHS Secretary to report to Congress on federal efforts to diagnose and treat Lyme, and ensure collaboration between various agencies.

– Promotes coordination of federal tick-borne disease activities with the HHS Tick-Borne Disease Working Group

– Mandates that the HHS Secretary act to support better and expanded research on tick-borne diseases and the improvement of diagnostic testing, and promote education and public awareness of tick-borne diseases.

For more information on the legislation and/or tick-borne disease go to: lymedisease.org, lymediseaseassociation.org, or chrissmith.house.gov.

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