Senators Collins, Smith Introduce Legislation to Address Rising Number of Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases

Senators Collins and Smith also delivered remarks from the Senate floor today, urging their colleagues to support this bipartisan bill

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ floor remarks.  Click HERE to download high-resolution video.

Click HERE to watch Senator Smith’s floor remarks. 

Click HERE for a one-pager on the TICK Act

 

Washington, D.C. — Over the past decade, cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases have risen exponentially, from approximately 30,000 in 2003 to an estimated 450,000 last year.  In Maine, last year, there were approximately 1,400 new cases of Lyme disease, sharply increased from the 752 cases in 2010.  Far too many Americans with Lyme disease experience a complex diagnostic odyssey that takes months or even years, while suffering severe and debilitating symptoms.  In addition to the physical and emotional toll that Lyme disease takes, it is also expensive.  Medical costs of Lyme disease are estimated at $1.3 billion per year. When accounting for indirect medical costs, including loss of work, the annual costs balloon to $75 billion per year.

 

In a bipartisan effort to improve research, prevention, diagnostics, and treatment for tick-borne diseases, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tina Smith (D-MN) today introduced the Ticks: Identify, Control, and Knockout (TICK) Act.  Senator Angus King (I-ME) is an original cosponsor.

 

“To knock out Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, we need a unified approach with leadership at the federal level and resources at the local level,” said Senator Collins.  “These diseases present grave risks to our public health and serious harm to our families and communities.  The sooner we acknowledge these risks and coordinate our effort to overcome them, the better for all of us.  The TICK Act does just that by applying a three-pronged public health approach to address Lyme and other vector-borne diseases, and I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting this important bill.”

 

“Minnesotans are eager to get outside after a long winter. Unfortunately, the number of Lyme disease cases in the state—and states across the country—is on the rise. Our bipartisan bill aims to reduce the number of cases by establishing an effort to target, prevent, and treat Lyme disease,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “We made sure to collaborate with universities and public health agencies, and our bipartisan bill is supported by a coalition of researchers, medical professionals, and government officials from across the country. We hope our colleagues join us so we can quickly take up and pass this bill.”

 

“Maine summers bring sunshine, hiking, and fresh blueberries – but unfortunately, they also bring ticks. As the weather warms up, our exposure to these parasites increases,” said Senator King.  “This leaves us more vulnerable to the diseases they spread – especially Lyme disease, which has drastically climbed in recent years. We need a coordinated and aggressive response from all levels of government and the private sector to make a dent in the rapid rise of this disease. This legislation will keep Americans healthier, and that’s a cause worth working toward.”

 

Using a three-pronged approach, the TICK Act would:

 

  1. Establish an Office of Oversight and Coordination for Vector-Borne Disease at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The office would develop a national strategy to prevent and treat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, expand research, and improve testing, treatment affordability, and public awareness.  The Office would also coordinate with other federal departments to address these diseases, including the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

  1. Reauthorize Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease for five years at $10 million per year.  Funding for these centers, which was allotted in 2017, expires in 2021.  These Centers have led the scientific response against tick-borne diseases, which now make up 75 percent of vector-borne diseases in the U.S.  There are five centers located at universities in New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin. 

 

  1. Authorize CDC Grants at $20 million per year that would be awarded to State Health Departments to improve data collection and analysis, support early detection and diagnosis, improve treatment, and raise awareness.  These awards would help states build a public health infrastructure for Lyme and other vector-borne diseases and amplify their initiatives through public-private partnerships.   

 

In 2016, Congress took a critical step forward with the enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, which created a federal Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group.  This Working Group released its first report in November 2018, which created several recommendations for next steps. With the findings of this report in mind, this legislation puts key recommendations into practice.

 

The TICK Act is supported by more than 25 organizations, including the Entomological Society of America, National Association of Vector-Borne Disease Control Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education Organization in Maine, the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, and the LivLyme Foundation.