May is Lyme disease awareness month. Responding to an explosion in Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses, the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group met for the first time in Washington, D.C. in December 2017. The working group was authorized by Congress as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act back in December of 2016.
WORKING GROUP GOALS
The goals of the group are to:
• To provide expert opinion on all matters relating to tick-borne illness
• Examine the national response to the increase in tick-borne illness
• To provide coordination between federal agencies involved in tick-borne illness & their prevention and treatment & minimize overlap
• Assist researchers in determining the direction and prioritization of effort and resources
Part of the authorization includes a mandate to provide a report to Congress every two years. The very first of these reports will be presented to Congress in December of 2018. The report will make suggestions on areas of research and treatment for tick-borne illnesses on a national level.
Tick-borne illnesses are a national health concern. While Lyme disease is in the news and gathers a lion share of the spotlight, the truth is there are 20 different illnesses that can be spread by ticks. The areas where ticks are found are spreading geographically. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Lyme disease alone counts for 300,000 new tick-borne illnesses each year in the United States.
LOCAL EFFORTS ALSO SPURRED TO ACTION
In New York’s Hudson Valley a new social media campaign with the hashtag #GetTickedOff has started to raise awareness of tick-borne illnesses, grab the attention of legislators and seek out funding for more research. Local Hudson Valley physician and Lyme disease expert Dr. Richard Horowitz is on the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.
“I’ve seen over 12,000 cases of Lyme at this point in my medical office in the Hudson Valley,
and we just see that it
devastates people’s lives,”
— Dr.Richard Horowitz,
physician, hyde Park, Ny
EARLY DIAGNOSIS IS CRITICAL TO SUCCESS
One of the biggest obstacles for anyone dealing with tick-borne illnesses and Lyme disease in particular is the fact that most patients go through a litany of misdiagnosed illness until arriving at their diagnosis of Lyme. Gregg Skall, a Lyme disease & tick-borne illness advocate, spoke at the December 11th meeting in Washington D.C. and said that the emphasis has to be on early diagnosis so that patients can experience the best treatment outcomes.
The most opportune time to offer treatment to patients who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease is within weeks or months. Many patients are misdiagnosed and denied treatment, leading to critical delays that can make Lyme disease worse.