On April 9th, Rep. Chris Smith sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanking them for their tireless efforts to address the Coronavirus outbreak as well as expressing his concerns about Lyme disease sufferers and their potential to be especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Smith wrote, “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. 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.’”
The letter highlighted a 2018 HHS Tick-Borne Disease Working Group (TBDWG) report to Congress indicating that there are approximately 300,000 new cases of tick-borne disease annually in the US. Smith warned this number is likely higher and a press release from his office states that an estimated 40,000 of these cases originate in New Jersey.
“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,” Smith continued. “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?”
Since 1993 Smith has consistently worked to address the needs of the Lyme disease community including authoring comprehensive amendments and legislation such as the Lyme Disease Initiative Act of 1998 and more recently, The Tick Act, which creates a “new whole-of-government” national strategy to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Read Congressman Smith’s letter to NIH and HHS.
Read a Press Release about Congressman Smith’s letter.