Bill Introduced to Fight Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases

Washington, D.C. – A group of four representatives including Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) yesterday introduced legislation requiring the secretary of Health and Human Services to create an advisory committee charged with advising federal agencies on priorities related to Lyme and tick-borne disease issues.

The measure, H.R. 2557<http://chrissmith.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Lyme_Disease_Adv_Comm_Intro_HR2557.pdf>, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), builds on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in a report issued in April. Wolf included directives in an annual appropriations bill last year to hold a conference on Lyme and then provide Congress with a report and recommendations.

Wolf said the legislation introduced today would increase awareness, knowledge, and transparency on Lyme disease issues. Congressmen Tim Holden (R-PA) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) joined Wolf as original cosponsors of the legislation which was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“As I travel throughout my congressional district, I am often struck by the lack of knowledge about Lyme by both patients and medical providers, even though this area has long been at the center of a Lyme epidemic,” Wolf said.

The Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee would ensure coordination and communication among federal agencies, a broad range of medical professionals, and patients. The bill would require the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to establish the advisory committee to advise the secretary and the assistant secretary for Health on Lyme disease activities. The committee would meet at least twice a year, and submit, through the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the director of the National Institutes of Health, an annual report of its activities.

Wolf noted that the measure is supported by the National Capital Lyme & Tick-borne Disease Association. Monte Skall, the association’s executive director, said: “We are very grateful to the members of Congress still devoted to making life better for Lyme and tick-borne disease victims, particularly at this time when the entire House is fixed on the economy and the debt ceiling issue. We must all work together to ensure that when this bill emerges from Congress it will contain strong protections to ensure a fair process for the Lyme patient community.”

Wolf has long been an advocate for victims of Lyme disease. He has hosted two forums in his district to help educate residents about the dangers of Lyme and how to protect themselves when outdoors from tick bites.

“I hope this legislation continues to raise awareness about this terrible disease and moves us closer to finding solutions for those infected,” said Wolf.