SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2018

Lawmakers push for national strategy to stop Lyme disease

A group of lawmakers is calling for a national strategy to fight Lyme disease that will allow for faster and more effective diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease.

Lyme disease infects tens of thousands of people annually. There have been 8,400 cases reported in the U.S. in 2012, though experts think that the actual number of cases may be larger because of unreliable tests. The disease is transmitted through the bites of infected deer ticks, Associated Press reports.

"The tick problem is growing," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.0, a co-sponsor of the bill in the U.S. Senate, said. "The Lyme disease problem is growing. This requires resources."

Reed said the bill would lead to more federal money aimed at Lyme disease. The legislation would establish an advisory committee of agencies, patient advocates and researchers, along with the coordination of support for better research, surveillance, diagnostic tests and other efforts.

"The key with the bill is to get everyone in the room, get all of the best available science and then aggressively attack this hideous disease that has ruined so many lives," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the bill's sponsor in the House, said, according to Associated Press.

People infected with Lyme disease typically develop a fever, headache and sometimes a rash that looks like a bull's eye centered on the tick bite. While most recover with antibiotics, if left untreated, the infection can lead to arthritis or spread to the nervous system or heart.

If the legislation successfully passes, it would be the latest disease to be targeted with a national strategy. Alzheimer's disease was the most recent to receive such treatment.