Smith to HHS Secretary & NIH’s Dr. Fauci:What Is Impact on Lyme Disease Patients?
In a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and the NIH’s (NIH) National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Rep. Chris Smith thanked Azar and Fauci for their tireless work on COVID-19 while expressing his concerns that chronic suffers of Lyme could be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.
“As you know, my home state of New Jersey has been ravaged by COVID-19—as of April 9 there have been 51,027 confirmed positive cases and 1,700 have tragically lost their lives. Thousands more have lost their lives across the entire Tri-State area which also includes New York and Connecticut,” Smith wrote. “I find this outbreak especially concerning when I consider the countless individuals who live in this region who also suffer from Lyme Disease, which also considers the Tri-State Area as a ‘hotspot.’”
“I remain deeply concerned about what impact COVID-19 and the Coronavirus outbreak will have on the countless Americans suffering from Lyme Disease and other related coinfections. Does the National Institutes of Health believe Lyme Disease, and other tickborne diseases, are considered underlying conditions which put individuals at higher risk for COVID-19?” Smith said.
According to a HHS 2018 Report to Congress, there are approximately 300,000 new cases of tick borne disease each year—with an estimated 40,000 new cases annually in New Jersey alone.
Smith has worked with Fauci at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for several years on efforts to combat Lyme disease, and commended Fauci’s breakthrough, October 2019 Strategic Plan for Tickborne Disease Research. As the former chairman and now lead Republican on the House global health panel, Smith has also worked with Fauci on multiple global health and disease issues.
Smith’s bill—the TICK Act—signed into law less four months ago—creates a “new whole-of-government” national strategy to combat Lyme and other tick borne diseases. Also signed into law in 2019, his The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act (HR 3460), supports the treatment, control, and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). It ensures that that United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) programs effectively integrate NTD treatment, control and elimination efforts with other development issues, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, water and sanitation and education.
PICTURED: Rep. Chris Smith on the House floor in the fall speaking about his legislation shortly before Congress passed and President Trump enacted the Lyme law.
Smith has consistently worked to address the needs of the Lyme disease community. Since 1993, Smith has authored comprehensive amendments and legislation to improve research, federal collaboration, and the lives of those suffering from Lyme disease. He’s advocated a dozen pieces of federal legislation he introduced in Congress beginning with the Lyme Disease Initiative Act of 1998.