U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the passage of legislation that would take important steps to combat tick-borne diseases, which remain a significant public health threat in states across the country. The bill will now go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“This is an important advancement to help combat the growing epidemic of Lyme disease,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our families should be able to enjoy nature without the fear of possibly contracting this disease. This bill would streamline and coordinate the federal resources needed to improve diagnosis, treatment, and reporting of Lyme disease, and ensure that a diversity of perspectives are represented within the newly established federal Tick-Borne Disease Working Group. I applaud my colleagues for joining me in support for this legislation, and look forward to seeing it signed into law by the President.”
“Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses are devastating families across our region,” said Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19). “This bipartisan, constituent-driven legislation will bring about effective ways to treat, detect, and prevent these conditions, including chronic Lyme. I want to thank the hundreds of patients, advocates, and physicians who have partnered with us to advance these reforms. To my House and Senate colleagues, thank you for supporting our efforts to bring relief to a long-suffering community.”
In February, Gillibrand along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) wrote to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee urging the consideration of their bipartisan bill to combat tick-borne diseases.
Between 2005 and 2014, there were 37,977 reported cases of Lyme disease in New York, one of the most heavily affected populations in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. However, reported cases do not accurately reflect every diagnosed case of Lyme disease. While approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year, the CDC estimates that roughly 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease per year. 95% of confirmed Lyme disease cases in 2015 were reported from just fourteen states, including New York.
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act, with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives known as the Tick-Borne Disease Research Accountability and Transparency Act. Provisions from these bipartisan bills were included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House of Representatives last month.
The Lyme and tick-borne disease provisions included in the 21st Century Cures Act will establish a federal Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group through the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services in order to ensure coordination among federal agencies and with researchers, health care providers, and patient organizations in addressing tick-borne illnesses. The Working Group will be comprised of representatives from federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as non-federal members including medical providers with experience in diagnosing and treating tick-borne diseases, scientists or researchers with expertise in tick-borne diseases, patients and their family members, and non-profit organizations that advocate for patients.
The Working Group will review federal activities related to tick-borne diseases, identify gaps in federal activities and research, and make recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding how to improve the federal response to addressing tick-borne diseases. In addition, the Working Group will submit a report to Congress every two years and publish the report on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website regarding the Working Group’s recommendations for improving the federal response to addressing tick-borne diseases.