Lyme Disease Bill Passes Congress

Wood ticks are common on the Cape. But deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are much smaller, the size of a freckle.

Wood ticks are common on the Cape. But deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are much smaller, the size of a freckle.

BARNSTABLE – Federal research on Lyme Disease and other tick-bourne diseases will be more fully coordinated if a bill sponsored by US Congressman William Keating is signed into law.

On Friday, Keating announced that the House had passed H.R. 4701, the Tick-borne Disease Research Transparency and Accountability Act of 2014.

The bipartisan legislation, which Keating cosponsored, amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Directors of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control to coordinate federal research on Lyme and related tick-borne diseases, and to convene a working group among federal and non-federal partners including Lyme physicians and patient advocates within in the community.

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H.R. 4701 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to act in consultation with the working group and to submit a strategic plan to Congress within three years that includes targets to measure progress.

The plan must include a strategy for improving outcomes of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, including progress related to detection, treatment, and prevention.

“I am happy to report that this critical legislation, which I was proud to cosponsor, has passed the House of Representatives,” said Keating. “As a member of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus and as a representative from Massachusetts, a state that sees some of the highest incident rates of Lyme disease in the country, I know how devastating tick-borne diseases are for those who suffer from them. The passage of H.R. 4701 is a step in the right direction towards ensuring the best research is being done at the federal level to fight against Lyme disease.”

Lyme Disease prevention advocates lauded the bill’s passage.

“Bill Keating has been incredibly involved and a great advocate for the Lyme Disease community, and this bill represents an important first step in a major victory for those who suffer from Lyme,” said Ron Gangemi, Executive Director of Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod.

“This is a significant step, the passage by the House of Representatives of the first federal legislation to address the devastating diseases transmitted by ticks. May the Senate follow suit right away,” said Brenda Boleyn, Co-Chair of the Barnstable County Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases Task Force. “The Barnstable County Task Force thanks Congressman Gibson and cosponsors, including Congressman Keating, for their effective work. We look forward to assisting the proposed Working Group to be established by this bill.”

According to the CDC, approximately 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each year, and the geographic range of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is increasing. The illness disproportionately affects children and senior citizens.