Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) along with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced today the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act of 2009.
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Chairman of its Subcommittee on Children and Families, along with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced today the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act of 2009. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).
“Every year, tens of thousands of Americans working or playing outdoors are bitten by ticks. For most, it is nothing more than a minor annoyance. But approximately 20,000 Americans contract Lyme disease each year, and the numbers are rising,” said Dodd. “And because Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose, many experts believe the true number of cases each year could be as much as ten or twelve times the reported number. Worst of all, it’s our children who are most at risk.”
The bill would require that the Secretary of Health and Human Services establish a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee within the Office of the Secretary to address tick-borne diseases with other Federal agencies and private organizations. It also would require the Secretary act through Federal agencies to engage in activities including working to increase public education, creating a physician education program and sponsoring scientific conferences on tick-borne diseases.
The bill is supported by Time for Lyme, Inc., a Connecticut-based organization that seeks to eliminate tick-borne diseases by promoting research, education and legislation.
“Thank you Senator Dodd for representing the interests of New England, as well as the rest of the country including other endemic areas such as the upper Midwest, California and the Pacific Northwest,” said Diane Blanchard, co-Chair of Time for Lyme, Inc. “Your leadership and vision coupled with your role on the national healthcare stage send a powerful message that the US government will protect those who cannot protect themselves. The bill you are sponsoring and introducing will provide desperately needed funding to find the missing answers to help those afflicted and halt further spread of the disease.”
The full text of Senator Dodd’s introduction as prepared for delivery is below:
MR. DODD. Mr. President, I rise today to join my fellow New Englander, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, in introducing the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act of 2009.
As families in New England look forward to outdoor fun this summer – and as families around the country look forward to vacationing in New England – they might not be thinking about the risks and dangers associated with hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
But every year, tens of thousands of Americans working or playing outdoors are bitten by ticks.
For most, a tick bite is nothing more than a minor annoyance. But approximately 20,000 Americans contract Lyme disease each year, and the numbers are rising. And because Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose, many experts believe the true number of cases each year could be as much as ten or twelve times the reported number. Worst of all, it’s our children who are most at risk.
Lyme disease was first described in my home state of Connecticut, and we still have the unfortunate distinction of being ten times more likely to contract Lyme disease than the rest of the nation. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of new cases from 46 states and the District of Columbia. And according to some estimates, Lyme disease costs our nation more than $2 billion in medical costs each year.
Lyme disease can affect every part of the body. Tens of thousands of Americans suffer through pain, sever fatigue, sleep disturbance, and cognitive difficulties, among many other symptoms. Some of these victims are able to lead normal lives, finding ways to cope with the disease. But many more find the disease significantly disrupts their lives, preventing them from everyday experiences that we all take for granted.
The legislation we offer today directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee at HHS to coordinate efforts and improve communication between the federal government, medical experts, physicians, and the public.
It will improve diagnostic efforts, establish a national clearinghouse for research and reporting, and require that scientific viewpoints on this often-frustrating disease be disseminated in a balanced way.
It contains tools for researchers, physicians, and the public to improve awareness and treatment.
Finally, it requires the Secretary to prepare and submit to Congress an annual report tracking developments related to Lyme disease, its spread, its treatment, and its impact on families in Connecticut and around the country.
Lyme disease is a frustrating puzzle for physicians, a burden on our nation’s health care system, and most importantly, a threat to American families enjoying our beautiful outdoor spaces.
I want to specifically mention and thank the organization from my home state of Connecticut that worked closely with me to develop this legislation, Time for Lyme. The co-chairs and founders of Time for Lyme, Diane Blanchard and Debbie Siciliano, are tireless advocates for the patients struggling with chronic Lyme disease. This is not their job. They are parents whose children suffer from this disease. They work to find time in their busy schedules to make a difference. This is their mission and they give me hope that we can get this done.
I also want to thank my good friend, Senator Collins, for her leadership on this issue. And I want to thank Senators Reed, Lieberman, Cardin, and Whitehouse for their support for this bill. Whether it’s fishing on the Housatonic River or exploring Gillette Castle State Park near my home in East Haddam, Connecticut families enjoy a variety of outdoor activities.
But Lyme disease remains a persistent and dangerous risk for my constituents, for Senator Collins’s constituents, and for those across the country. With leadership from this body and better coordination from federal agencies, we can more effectively combat this disease, better protect our children and families, and make our outdoor spaces safer places to work and play.
I urge my colleagues to join Senator Collins and myself in support of this legislation and thank them kindly for their consideration.
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