Cong. Smith Authors New Lyme Disease Bill
In July 2011, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 2557, which would support federal efforts concerning Lyme and other tick-borne diseases through the establishment of a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee. Smith co-chairs the House Lyme Disease Caucus, along with Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Tim Holden (D-PA), who are both cosponsors of the bill.
“It seems everywhere I go, someone comes up to me to talk about how Lyme disease has severely impacted their lives or someone they know,” said Smith. “Lyme is a very prevalent disease in the U.S. today. This legislation provides a comprehensive, nationwide effort to step up the fight against this disease. My state of New Jersey is particularly hard hit.” Click here to read the full press release about the bill.
Click here to read a July 25, 2011 Trenton Times article about Lyme and the congressman's bill.
Cong. Smith Helps Lyme Organizations
In an effort to raise awareness about the difficulties facing patients with Lyme disease, on September 29, 2010, Congressman Christopher Smith (NJ) introduced into the Congressional Record a report that exposes the research gaps in Lyme disease. The report was submitted by three of the nation’s most influential Lyme disease organizations, the NJ based national Lyme Disease Association (LDA), the California Lyme Disease Association (CALDA), and Connecticut-based Time for Lyme (TFL). The report was originally commissioned by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) study group as part of a scientific workshop which was initiated through Congressional Appropriations language (which Smith helped secure). Click here to read full press release from the LDA, CALDA and TFL.
Lyme, Tick-Borne Diseases Forum Held in NJ
To help foster greater knowledge about tick-borne diseases, Congressman Chris Smith hosted a June 2010 Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Forum for the public, health officials and medical professionals.
Smith, a co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, said the featured speakers were national experts on treatments and testing for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, on ticks and pathogens, and on the impact to patients. The event took place at the Wall Township, N.J. Municipal Building with over 300 people in attendance.
Over the last decade, New Jersey has ranked 3rd in the U.S. in the number of reported Lyme disease cases and has shown an increase in other tick-borne pathogens.
“In the past, many public health authorities across the country did not have a good grasp on the prevalence of Lyme and its various manifestations or stages,” Smith said. “Diagnosis can be very difficult, particularly in cases presenting only certain stage complications. There are major gaps in knowledge of the full range of Lyme disease processes and how and when it persists despite treatment. These major deficiencies in our understanding of Lyme disease often make treatment decisions problematic and controversial. Forums like this and public education are key to fighting Lyme Disease.” (Click here for Congressman Smith's statement.)
Prior to the presentations, Smith recognized the efforts of 10-year-old Myles Hutcherson of Freehold Township for winning second prize in the Major League Baseball/Scholastic Breaking Barriers Essay Contest for writing about his trials as a Lyme Disease patient. Middle school students from across the country were asked to detail obstacles in their lives and how they have used values demonstrated by baseball legend Jackie Robinson to overcome challenges. The West Freehold School fourth-grader got to meet Jackie Robinson’s family, highlighted by a visit to Citi Field and Yankee Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day April 15.
“Myles is a living example of why we must continue to wage war on this debilitating disease,” Smith said. “He’s fought this disease since he was four years old. He’s a brave young man.”
The follow experts gave presentations:
Dr. Joseph Burrascano, MD, an internal medicine physician, is recognized internationally as a skilled Lyme disease clinician and founding member of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. He has authored a number of papers and three textbook chapters on Lyme disease and has provided expert testimony before state legislatures and before Congress. He focused on the clinical diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases.
Nick Harris, PhD, is the founder and CEO of IGeneX, Inc., a specialty laboratory devoted exclusively to patient testing and research related to Lyme disease and its associated co-infections. He has spent over 25 years researching and developing tests in this underserved area. He focused on the role of the laboratory in the diagnosis of Lyme and its co-infections.
Ellen Stromdahl, PhD, is an Entomologist with the Tick-Borne Disease Laboratory for Entomological Sciences with the US Army Public Health Command. She focused on tick species found in the US and the pathogens they carry, focusing on New Jersey and the Northeast.
Pat Smith, President, national Lyme Disease Association (LDA), is a Member of the Columbia University Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center Advisory Committee and former chair of the Governor’s Lyme Disease Advisory Council (NJ). She focused on the spread of Lyme disease, its impact on patients, and what is being done.
Congressman Smith, who hosted the event, is the author of the “Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Prevention, Education, and Research Act of 2009” (HR 1179). Provisions of his Lyme disease legislation were incorporated in almost identical fashion into the FY 2010 Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education Appropriations bill, which passed Congress in 2009.
Provisions incorporated from the Smith bill into the Labor HHS-Education Appropriations bill encourage the CDC to expand federal efforts to combat Lyme disease, including developing more accurate diagnostic tools and tests, increase epidemiological research on tick-borne diseases and set the goal of determining the long-term course of illness for Lyme disease, and improve surveillance and reporting of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in order to accumulate more accurate data on their prevalence. The bill, which is now law, also incorporates Smith’s provisions calling the National Institutes of Health to intensify research on understanding the full range of Lyme disease processes and to conduct a scientific conference on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, which would provide a forum to foster public participation and input from Lyme disease patients. Another provision, similar to one in the original Smith bill, directs the Secretary of HHS to review the coordination of activities across CDC, NIH, and other agency components to ensure a broad spectrum of scientific viewpoints is represented in public health policy and to report back to Congress by September 30, 2010. The bill also increases the CDC’s budget for Lyme disease by $3.6 million over 2009 year’s funding.
The prevalence of Lyme is increasing in the U.S., with about 220,000 Americans developing Lyme disease each year. While Lyme accounts for 90 percent of tick-borne diseases in the U.S., the same tick species spreads other diseases, such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Other tick species spread diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and southern tick-associated rash illness. The CDC estimates only 10 percent of Lyme cases are reported. The CDC has determined that from 1992 to 2006, the incidence of Lyme disease was highest among children aged 5 to 14 years of age.
Lyme Disease cases surge in Burlington and Hunterdon Counties
Research Gaps in Lyme Disease Exposed in the Congressional Record
Lyme disease initiatives urged by Smith get House approval (Asbury Park Press)
Smith Unveils Lyme Disease Bill
CT Attorney General's Investigation Reveals Flawed Lyme Disease Guideline Process, IDSA Agrees To Reassess Guidelines, Install Independent Arbiter (2008)
Agreement between CT AG and the Infectious Diseases Society
Click here to watch Rep. Wolf speak
in support of Rep Smith's Lyme bill: