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Rep. Smith pushes for Lyme disease bill as NJ cases skyrocket
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mark_denton2006@yahoo.com
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 7:39 pm    Post subject: Rep. Smith pushes for Lyme disease bill as NJ cases skyrocket Reply with quote

Rep. Smith pushes for Lyme disease bill as NJ cases skyrocket

By DONNA DE LA CRUZ
Associated Press Writer

July 14, 2006, 12:33 PM EDT


WASHINGTON -- The record number Lyme disease cases reported last year
in New Jersey worries Rep. Chris Smith who is lobbying for a bill that
would increase funding for research and education of the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Jersey
ranked third in the country in 2004 in reported Lyme disease cases, the
most recent year for which the agency has figures. In 2005, Smith,
R-Hamilton, said there were 3,372 reported cases in New Jersey, a
record high.

To address the problem, Smith this week held a meeting with CDC
officials, other lawmakers, doctors and activists.

"This meeting helped to move the dialogue forward," Smith said. The
Congressman said he has become increasingly concerned about reports of
people who go untreated due to the lack of a standard diagnostic test
to identify Lyme disease.

"What we need are concrete actions on the part of CDC and other
agencies that will result in tangible help for the large numbers of
Americans desperately ill with this disease," Smith said.

According to the CDC, Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bite
of infected black-legged ticks. Ticks prefer wooded and bushy areas
with high grass. May, June and July are when ticks that transit Lyme
disease are most active.

Most cases can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics
if the disease is caught in time. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include
using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, landscaping to get rid
of ticks and integrated pest management.

Symptoms of the disease may include fever, headache, fatigue, and
sometimes a rash, which may look like an expanding bull's eye. If not
diagnosed and treated early, Lyme disease can lead to chronic illness
and can affect every system in the body, including the central nervous
system and cardiac systems.

The disease is most prevalent in the Northeast. One of the reasons is
that the black-legged ticks do well during the summer when it's humid
and the soil is moist.

In 2004, the most recent year for which the CDC has figures, the five
states with the most reported cases of Lyme disease were: New York
(5,100), Pennsylvania (3,985), New Jersey (2,698), Massachusetts
(1,532), and Connecticut (1,348).

Smith is also pushing for passage of his Lyme and Tick-Born Disease
Prevention, Education and Research Act. The measure, supported by more
than 70 bipartisan lawmakers, would authorize an increase in the
research and education of Lyme disease to $20 million per year over
five years.

The bill would improve tests used to diagnose Lyme disease, enhance the
public health surveillance systems and improve the public education
campaign to prevent new cases of Lyme disease. It also would create a
federal task force on Lyme disease.

Earlier this month, New York state health officials said an aggressive
type of tick has migrated from southeastern states and gained a
foothold on Long Island, raising new concerns about Lyme disease. Sen.
Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has also called on the federal government to
be more active in fighting the disease, and has a bill that would
authorize $100 million for Lyme disease research.
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