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News From New York's 19th Congressional District

Sue Kelly

Serving Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester Counties

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 26, 2005
202-225-5441/Cell 914-204-1561
Contact: Kevin Callahan

Kelly Co-Introduces Legislation to Increase Federal Efforts to Fight Lyme Disease

Updated Bill Matches Senate Version of Legislation to Expand Lyme Prevention and Treatment Efforts

WASHINGTON Legislation co-sponsored by Congresswoman Sue Kelly and Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives to bolster federal efforts to fight Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders.

The bill is an update to Lyme-fighting legislation that Kelly introduced in May. The new legislation matches a Senate version of the bill introduced yesterday that incorporates provisions from Kelly's bill as well as provisions from a similar Lyme disease bill introduced by Smith last month.

Kelly and Smith worked with Senate sponsors Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) to develop joint legislation that would stand the best possible chance of passing both houses of Congress and would expand federal efforts in regard to the prevention, education, treatment, and research activities related to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

"It is vital that we continue working together in Congress to bring more national attention to an illness that particularly afflicts Dutchess County residents," Kelly said. "The epicenter of Lyme disease is here in the Hudson Valley, but incidence rates have increased throughout the country and it's time for the federal government to assume more Lyme-fighting responsibility. We cannot leave the burden of raising public awareness to prevent Lyme disease on localities like Dutchess County alone. More must be done at the federal level to help our local communities prevent and treat Lyme disease."

Like Kelly's original legislation, which is supported by 49 bipartisan co-sponsors, the new bill would:

  • Require the development of a much-needed diagnostic test to better detect Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders.
  • Authorize federal funding for increased research into diagnosis and treatments for Lyme disease, as well as to increase public educational activities and better help local communities in the dissemination of Lyme prevention information to the general public.
  • Create an advisory committee in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would include Lyme patients, Lyme experts in the scientific community, and local health officials from communities particularly afflicted with Lyme disease. The purpose of the advisory committee would be to help HHS develop and implement improved activities for the prevention and control of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease has climbed to its highest level on record in the U.S. according to a report released last year by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that found a 40 percent national increase in Lyme cases over a one-year period. New York ranked first among states in the number of cases reported, and Dutchess County ranked second in reported cases among all counties nationally. Kelly first introduced her legislation in the 108th Congress after the report was released in May 2004.

"Passage of this bill would mark a significant first step toward a coordinated federal effort to better understand and treat Lyme disease," Kelly said. "A surefire diagnostic test is lacking, increased research is essential, and a true national strategy for improved care and prevention of Lyme disease is long overdue."

Lyme disease advocacy groups that backed Kelly's original bill also have endorsed the updated bill.

"I would like to thank Congresswoman Kelly for her leadership on this legislation, which includes the establishment of an Advisory Committee to improve the government's response to Lyme disease and gives the public a voice at the table," said Mary M. Halinski, executive director of the Lyme Disease Society. "Congresswoman Kelly is a strong advocate for Lyme disease patients."

Karen Vanderhoof-Forschner of the Lyme Disease Foundation and the Lyme Disease Community Caucus said, "LDF and the Lyme Disease Community Caucus are delighted that Sue Kelly has taken the initiative to help develop consensus legislation, and that she will use the strong support from her original bill's co-sponsors and from our organizations across the country to help move the new bill ahead in Congress."

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