Washington, DC – This week, Congressman Bill Keating authored legislation, H.R. 2894, the Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act, to help combat the spread of tick-borne diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually nationwide. However, further research reveals the actual number of diagnoses could be as high as 300,000. And alarmingly, nearly 20 percent of people surveyed in areas with high incidence rates of Lyme disease were unaware that the disease was even a risk. In a separate study, half of those surveyed reported they did not regularly act to protect themselves against tick bites during the warmer months. These issues are of special concern in Massachusetts’ Ninth Congressional District. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public health, the Ninth District includes the counties with the five highest rates of Lyme in the Commonwealth: 1. Nantucket, 2. Dukes, 3. Plymouth, 4. Bristol, and 5. Barnstable.
The Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to publish two sets of materials specific to Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses. The first would update prevention and treatment procedures for both providers and the public. The second includes training materials for healthcare providers. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses often present with symptoms that can be incorrectly attributed to other ailments, resulting in misdiagnoses. The Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act would ensure the CDC publishes guidelines that help Americans understand the risks, know which questions to ask, and ensure they spot tick-borne disease symptoms as quickly as possible.
“Residents of Southeastern Massachusetts – and all throughout the Northeast – are keenly aware of how prevalent ticks are and how dangerous a tick bite can be,” said Congressman Keating. “Of critical importance is the amount of engagement on this issue in our district because it hits so close to home – particularly for children and seniors, who are the most susceptible to tick-borne illnesses. With potential diagnoses ten times higher than the number of cases reported to the CDC, it’s time for Congress to recognize that we need to do more to prevent the spread of tick-borne disease. My legislation will help increase awareness and promote early detection, which is a critical component to a good prognosis.”
“The Barnstable County Tick-borne Diseases Task Force has an eighteen year track record of successful dissemination of information relative to the ever expanding problem of tick-borne diseases,” said Henry Lind, co-chair of the Barnstable County Tick-borne Diseases Task Force. “We reach individuals, civic groups, public schools and the medical community. While we have measured successes in education and awareness, the epidemic continues to grow in scope and scale with new tick-borne diseases being identified on a regular basis. Clearly, timely updates and continuous education is our single most important defense for the protection of our citizens against these diseases. Our initiative has been entirely locally funded and the assistance of the CDC will be an important ingredient to success. We are grateful for the support of Rep. Keating to encourage the expansion and distribution of timely information on tick-borne diseases.”
“Lyme disease is on the rise and children who spend disproportionately more time outside are commonly infected. Improved provider education about tick born infections, as mandated in Congressman Keating’s legislation, should help improve diagnostic accuracy,” said Dr. Lise Nigrovic, Co-Director of Population Science Center and Senior Associate Physician in Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“As the geographic locations expand where ticks carry and transmit diseases, there is an increasing need for educating the public and health care providers on the best practices to prevent, diagnose and treat these illnesses. It is an important step but education campaigns alone will not be enough to stem the remarkable increase in tick borne illnesses. An important next step would be a national priority for prevention of Lyme disease and other tick borne infections,” said Dr. Mark S. Klempner, Executive Vice Chancellor of MassBiologics and Professor of Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School.