Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Congressman Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), in partnership with the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and promoting advocacy to find a cure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, hosted a forum at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City to discuss the fight against the silent epidemic of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease. A satellite forum was held at SUNY Ulster County Community College, and the event was streamed live at tbdalliance.org and weill.cornell.edu/tickborne/.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has singled out Lyme disease as the most common and fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the country. In 2011, more than 24,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported in the U.S., with the CDC stating they believed only 10-12 percent of all cases had been reported. When left untreated, or undertreated, victims of these diseases suffer extremely incapacitating illnesses that also cause significant preventable health care costs and reduced economic productivity. Further, victims of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases suffer in large part because there is currently no diagnostic tool that is even 60 percent reliable. Those infected often spend months, and in many cases years, searching to simply determine the cause of their illness. Some never find out -- they just continue to suffer.
"Lyme disease is a pervasive and pernicious public health scourge," Blumenthal said. "Today's forum further underscores the urgent need for a strong national initiative to combat Lyme disease. There is a strong consensus that the nation must improve reporting of Lyme cases and develop better diagnostic tools. Inadequate diagnosis and reporting cause devastating damage to countless individuals every day. Lyme disease has reached epidemic proportions, and a national advisory body that gives patients a voice and a seat at the table with policymakers, scientists, researchers and others is imperative to better prevent and treat this disease. I look forward to working with Senator Gillibrand on legislation that will establish such a body and implement other necessary reforms."
"With spring just around the corner, we must continue to work to ensure that our children and their families can enjoy the outdoors without the fear of contracting tick-borne diseases," said Gillibrand. "It is time once and for all to take the right steps to prevent this horrible epidemic. We need to do more than check our kids for ticks when they come in from playing. We must invest in better research, educate families on the risks, emphasize prevention, and improve treatment strategies. I will continue to work my colleagues to push for legislation that would develop better tools for diagnosing and reporting Lyme disease, and ensure doctors are better equipped to diagnose and treat those who become infected."
"Across my Congressional District and New York State, Lyme Disease has significantly impacted my constituents and many others," said Gibson. "It is imperative we do a better job raising awareness of tick-borne illnesses and improve our current diagnosis and treatment options. Today's forum is an excellent step in that regard, and I appreciate the opportunity to partner with Sens. Gillibrand and Blumenthal in this effort."
"Tick-borne diseases present a national health crisis that is growing dramatically and devastating the lives of people of all backgrounds," said David Roth, TBDA co-chairman. "TBDA is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the terrible impact of tick-borne diseases, improving the lives of people suffering with these illnesses, and advancing research that is critically needed to eradicate this silent epidemic. We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for joining our fight."
"I applaud the efforts of Senator Gillibrand and Senator Blumenthal to bring more attention and resources to combating Lyme disease. For many patients Lyme disease has severe impacts on quality-of-life and we must do more in the medical community to prevent and treat it," said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College.
The forum, which was widely attended by doctors, researchers, and health care providers in the field, examined key ways to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The panel of doctors, experts, and patients included: Dr. Brian Fallon, Director of the Center for Neuroinflammatory Disorders and Biobehavioral Medicine and Director of Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center, Columbia University; Dr. Roy Gulick, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Weill Cornell Medical College; Dr. David Leiby, Head of Transmissible Diseases, American Red Cross; John McPherson, nationally syndicated cartoonist, Creator of the "Close to Home" comic, patient advocate; and Dr. Richard Ostfeld, Senior Scientist and Disease Ecologist, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
While Dr. Fallon discussed some of the breakthroughs in tick-borne disease research over the last decade and highlighted critical future research needs, Dr. Gulick provided a medical perspective on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Dr. Leiby spoke about transfusion-transmitted tick-borne agents with a focus on babesia, and Dr. Ostfeld emphasized the need for new initiatives and research to confront the health threats posed by tick-borne diseases in the US.
To learn more about the threat of tick-borne diseases and what you can do to help build awareness about the health crisis posed by Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, visit tbdalliance.org.
About the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA)
The Tick-Borne Disease Alliance is dedicated to raising awareness, promoting advocacy and supporting initiatives to find a cure for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. As part of its efforts, TBDA is embarking on a quest to develop a reliable diagnostic tool as a first step toward eradicating the diseases. Working with others in the tick-borne disease community nationwide, TBDA seeks to raise public awareness through education and create a unified voice for advocacy regarding the current epidemic in order to make a real difference. More information about TBDA, Lyme and tick-borne diseases, and prevention and protection can be found at http://www.TBDAlliance.org.