Milton, NY – With Lyme disease cases increasing in Ulster County, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited the Cluett Schantz Memorial Park in Ulster County to urge the Trump Administration to implement her Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act, which became law as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016. This critical law will ensure federal coordination on urgently needed research for prevention, diagnosis and treatments for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the U.S., and New York is among the states most significantly affected by this disease. In 2015, New York reported 3,252 confirmed cases of Lyme disease to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC estimates that the actual number of diagnosed cases is as many as ten times the number of cases that states report to the CDC. The New York State Department of Health estimates that Ulster County had 514 cases of Lyme disease in 2015.
“Families in Ulster County should be able to spend time outdoors without having to worry about being bitten by ticks and contracting Lyme disease,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I was proud to see my legislation to combat Lyme disease signed into law last December, but the Trump administration has not yet moved forward to implement the law, even though this crisis is urgent. I will continue to do everything I can to help fight Lyme disease in New York, and I urge the Trump administration to take this problem seriously and carry out its responsibilities under the Lyme disease provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act.”
“Lyme disease is a significant national public health threat, affecting adults, seniors and children at an alarming rate,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “Ulster County has been taking action at the local level through our Department of Health and with countless partners, but more help is needed; which is why I want to commend Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for bringing her steadfast commitment to this issue and for bringing added focus to the importance of prevention and much-needed federal funding for research and treatment in our ongoing fight against Lyme disease. Senator Gillibrand continues to deliver for the great people of Ulster County as well as New Yorkers all across the state.”
“Federal funding, State funding, and more importantly the public-private partnership that is fundamental to scientific research, will be the key to finding solutions to reducing the scourge of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases,” said Joshua R. Ginsberg, Ph. D., President, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
“The explosion of ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases, has been allowed to spread unabated for 43 years,” said Jill Auerbach, Chairperson, Hudson Valley Lyme Disease Association. “Thanks to Senator Gillibrand and the others in Congress who fought for the public, and for this bipartisan law on Tick-Borne diseases. It will finally bring all sides together in a workgroup, no longer behind closed doors. It will look at all of the science under Congressional oversight to address real answers. We need answers regarding an accurate test and cures for the diseases, Tick research for drastic reduction of the tick population and to block tick ability to transmit disease, and increased funding commensurate with the impact of the disease on society. Tick research holds the most promise to bring about fruitful solutions to STOP TICKS and STOP DISEASE yet this field of study is long ignored and receives only a pittance of funding.”
According to the CDC, between 2005 and 2015, there were 41,229 reported cases of Lyme disease in New York, one of the most heavily affected states in the country. 95 percent of confirmed Lyme disease cases in 2015 were reported from just fourteen states, including New York.
In April, Senator Gillibrand, along with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), wrote a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting an update on the Trump Administration’s efforts to implement the federal Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group, which is one of the requirements in Gillibrand’s Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act. The Working Group will ensure coordination among federal agencies and with researchers, health care providers, and patients in addressing tick-borne illnesses. The Working Group will comprise representatives from federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as non-federal members, such as medical providers with experience in diagnosing and treating tick-borne diseases, scientists or researchers with expertise in tick-borne diseases, patients and their family members, and non-profit organizations that advocate for patients. In addition, the Working Group will submit a report to Congress every two years and will publish the report on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website regarding the Working Group’s recommendations for improving the federal response to addressing tick-borne diseases.
In addition to not yet implementing the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act, the Trump Administration also recently proposed a federal budget that would cut NIH funding by 22 percent, which could decrease critical Lyme disease research for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.