House approves Chris Smith amendment for Lyme disease funding increase
WASHINGTON, D.C.— The House of Representatives passed an amendment authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to boost Lyme disease research funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just before the end of the July session.
“My amendment adds $4 million, for a total of $20 million, for Lyme disease research at the CDC for FY 2021. Just three years ago CDC’s Lyme budget was only $11.7 million,” said Smith, a longtime leader on Lyme as co-chair of the bipartisan Lyme Disease Caucus in Congress with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN). “The increase in funding achieved through my amendment will help CDC develop better diagnostic tests for Lyme, expand tick surveillance activities across the US and strengthen the federal government’s overall strategy to combat Lyme.”
Rep. Peterson, is the lead Democrat cosponsor of the Smith Amendment which has also been cosponsored by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Max Rose (D-NY), and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).
Smith said the increased funding, which passed July 30 is “good news” for the estimated 800,000+ people in New Jersey who have contracted Lyme over the past 20 years. New Jersey has one of the highest amounts of Lyme cases in the nation.
Pat Smith (no relation to Rep. Smith), President of the Lyme Disease Association, a leading national Lyme advocacy group founded in 1991 and headquartered in Jackson, NJ, said Rep. Smith’s funding amendment is an important step in the fight to reign in Lyme disease.
“The rising case numbers and increasing spread of tick-borne diseases are alarming and require a sustained focus from Congress to try to control this epidemic,” said Pat Smith.
“We are grateful to Congressman Smith for his continued dedication to this effort and his success along with his colleagues to acquire an additional $4M in funding for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. In these difficult times for our country, that is an outstanding accomplishment,” she said.
PHOTO: Rep. Chris Smith is shown holding a copy of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) new national research strategy to combat Lyme disease at a press conference Smith held after its release in October. LDA President Pat Smith, at left, prepares to speak.
Earlier in July, the House agreed to another Smith Lyme disease amendment to investigate possible origins of modern-day Lyme. The amendment mandating a GAO investigation into possible use of ticks in a Department of Defense bioweapons program could shed more light on the massive increase in modern-day Lyme disease in recent years, and its heavier concentration in certain regions in the country. Said Smith, “If the investigation concludes our government’s bioweapons program did not contribute to the proliferation of Lyme, we turn the page. If it did, hopefully this investigation and research will contribute to a cure.”
Rep. Smith introduced the House version of the recently enacted law, the TICK Act (Ticks: Identify, Control, Knockout Act—HR 3073), which implements a whole of government approach to combat Lyme disease. “With Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States—there are an estimated 300,000 to 427,000 new cases each year and 10-20 percent of all patients are suffering from chronic Lyme disease— the federal government needs to provide more funding for research, surveillance, treatments and a cure,” he said.
Enacted in December as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 omnibus appropriations bill, the Tick Act calls for a national strategy to aggressively fight Lyme disease and authorizes an additional $150 million to increase funding for Lyme research, prevention and treatment programs. Smith said the bill provides $50 million over five years to codify the Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector Borne Disease which have led the scientific response against tick-borne diseases. And the bill authorizes new CDC grants for a total of $100 million over five years, to build a public health infrastructure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.