At the height of tick season, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) renewed his call for an aggressive federal response to combat Lyme disease. Blumenthal called for passage of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act (S. 1381), which he introduced last year with Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.). Blumenthal also announced that he will be convening a U.S. Senate field hearing in Connecticut later this summer to examine how to enhance Lyme disease research, treatment, and prevention efforts in a way that brings patients to the table and considers all points of view
"This measure is a significant next step toward a national strategy seeking to combat and conquer the spreading scourge of Lyme disease so devastating to so many victims," Blumenthal said. "It will provide resources and support to evaluate and advance diagnosis and treatment as well as prevention, which all too often are lacking. One profoundly important goal is to give patients a voice and literally a seat at the table along with scientists, medical professionals, health care providers, and policymakers on an advisory body that would help evaluate present practices and help improve them. Lyme is a pervasive and pernicious disease that is all too often undiagnosed and undetected -- and untreated -- causing lasting, devastating damage. I am pleased that this measure has strong bipartisan support and that we will seek to increase support through a hearing on August 30 in Stamford with my colleague Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York."
Blumenthal was joined by Dr. Kirby C. Stafford III, Ph.D., Vice Director and State Entomologist of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and Peter Wild, Executive Director of the Connecticut-based Lyme Research Alliance.
"Lyme disease is the leading arthropod associated disease in the United States," said Dr. Stafford. "The number of Lyme disease cases are likely to continue to increase as the blacklegged tick expands its range and more people are at risk for this disease. Continued research and educational support from federal agencies will play a major role in addressing this major public health problem."
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the national incidence rate (i.e. cases per 100,000 population) for Lyme disease in 2010 was 9.86. By comparison, the Connecticut incidence rate was 55 -- about 5.5 times higher than the national incidence rate.
The Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act would:
Establish a Tick-Borne Disease Advisory Committee: The legislation would establish the Advisory Committee through the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in order to streamline coordination between other federal agencies and private organizations addressing tick-borne illnesses. The Advisory Committee would be comprised of "stakeholder constituencies," which would include doctors and researchers.
Coordinate Increased Research and Development Around Lyme Disease: The legislation directs the Secretary of HHS, in coordination with the Advisory Committee, to develop more accurate and time-sensitive diagnostic tools to strengthen surveillance and reporting of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, which would help determine prevalence of various illnesses.
Increase Education: The legislation would increase public education through the Community Based Education Programs at the CDC and create a physician-education program that includes the full spectrum of scientific research related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne disease.
Report on Lyme Disease: The legislation requires the Secretary of HHS to publish a report at the end of each advisory term evaluating published guidelines and current research available on Lyme disease in order to best educate health professionals on the latest research and diversity of treatment options. It further requires the Secretary of HHS to submit to Congress a report on the activities carried out under this act including a copy of the most recent annual report issued by the Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee.