Stefanik requests federal funding for Lyme research

Rep. Elise Stefanik

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, as part of a bipartisan group of Congress members, is seeking more federal funding to combat the tick-borne Lyme disease.

The group has requested that the acting secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Eric Hargan, improve the evaluation of federal efforts to fight Lyme and to request funding for those efforts in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 budget.

The CDC will determine what level of funding to request. Congress is currently considering funding levels for the CDC in the coming financial year.

Three proposed performance indicators to evaluate treatment and surveillance of the disease include monitoring for a decrease of Lyme disease in the U.S., a reduction in the average time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis and an increase in the number of tests for Lyme disease that can confirm infection.

The letter also recommends five strategic objectives to prevent, treat and control tick-borne diseases including increased collaboration between HHS agencies and state and local health departments, promoting the development of diagnostics, treatments, and methods of prevention, increasing research aimed at controlling or reducing the population of ticks and promoting personal protection methods.

“Unfortunately, the Northeast is the epicenter of the Lyme Disease epidemic with over 90 percent of confirmed Lyme disease cases being reported from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut,” Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said in a press release. “This letter is aimed to create specific, measurable objectives to track progress as we combat Lyme disease.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has linked increasing cases of Lyme disease to climate change: i.e., as the climate warms, woodlands farther north become amenable habitat for ticks. Unlike some Republicans in Congress, Stefanik says climate change is a serious threat, but she does not want climate action to hurt the U.S. economy.