Rep. Keating Secures Funding for Tick-Borne Illness Prevention

WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, included in which was a provision providing funding for research into tick-borne illnesses.

The amendment was attached to the defense bill by Cape and Islands Congressman Bill Keating, and specifically gives the Department of Defense the authority to partner with medical researchers and universities in order to test for all tick-borne diseases.

Keating says that this is a highly important issue across the country, “Residents of Southeastern Massachusetts – and all throughout the Northeast – are keenly aware of how prevalent ticks are and how dangerous a tick bite can be.”

“Of critical importance is the amount of engagement on this issue in our district because it hits so close to home – particularly for children and seniors, who are the most susceptible to tick-borne illnesses,” he continued, “With potential diagnoses ten times higher than the number of cases reported to the CDC, it’s time for Congress to recognize that we need to do more to prevent the spread of tick-borne disease. My legislation will help increase awareness and promote early detection, which is a critical component to a good prognosis.”

According to the CDC, there are over 30,000 cases of Lyme and other tick-related illness reported annually nationwide, with Keating stating that that number may be ten times as high when unreported cases are considered.

Keating’s amendment also allows the DOD to grant funding to universities so that they may conduct testing at a lower cost to the public. Currently such testing costs a minimum of $50.

In his speech on the floor of the House of Representatives Keating said, “Mr. Speaker, I realize that there is concern that amendments to this legislation might lead to a Defense Health Program pushed beyond its capacity. That’s not the case here. The military tick-testing program already exists.

This amendment would necessarily help the department of defense modernize the existing program to meet new challenges in the feed of tick-borne disease. Indeed the D.O.D.’S own website says emerging tick-borne diseases are being discovered all the time and cases have been increasing steadily for years.”

This is just Keating’s latest effort to take on tick-borne disease, just last month he authored The Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act. The bill would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publish materials specific to Lyme Disease, in an attempt to increase awareness for both health care providers and the public. 

Keating reports that some studies have found that as many as 20 percent of people living in areas with high incidences of Lyme diseases are unaware that the disease is even a risk.

By DAVID BEATTY, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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