WALL, NJ — As New Jersey enters its peak tick season, current efforts to combat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases will be discussed by a panel of nationally recognized experts during a special congressional town meeting on Wednesday, May 29 at Wall Municipal Building.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th District), the program’s participants will also provide updates on diagnosis and treatment, and tips on protection — topics of growing concern in New Jersey, which is ranked seventh in the nation among “high-incidence states” for Lyme and third overall in the number of reported Lyme cases for 2017, according to the Lyme Disease Association.
In 2017, there were 3,629 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are the panelists to be featured during the town meeting, which will be held from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m.
■ C. Ben Beard is deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, based in Fort Collins, Colo. He will explore “Tick-Borne Diseases in the United States: Burden, Trends & What You Can Do to Protect Yourself”
■ Internist Richard I. Horowitz, M.D., of Hyde Park, N.Y., will focus on “Updates in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme and Chronic Disease.”
■ Patricia V. Smith of Wall, president of the Jackson-based Lyme Disease Association, will address: “Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases: Their Spread, The Ticks and Government Activity.” She also is a member of the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Advisory Committee and a member of Columbia University’s Lyme and TBDs Research Center Advisory Committee.
■ Congressman Smith, whose district represents Belmar and Lake Como, is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, and author of numerous laws to combat Lyme disease.
In November 2018, the first report by the HHS Tick-Borne Disease Working Group Report to Congress confirmed that incidents of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are increasing and that more federal attention to the problem is needed.
“As this report clearly shows, Lyme disease is spreading — in the overall number of cases, in the geographic area of occurrences, and in the number of disease agents. We have been working for years — the Lyme Disease Caucus and other advocates — to enhance awareness of Lyme disease and push for a coordinated, comprehensive federal response, including more funding of research,” said Chris Smith, who along with the caucus have successfully pushed for more federal funding of Lyme research.
He also introduced legislation earlier this year — the National Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Control and Accountability Act of 2018 (HR 5900) — that would call for a new national strategy on Lyme disease and help coordinate federal efforts across departments and agencies into one comprehensive federal response to tick-borne diseases.
Upon release of that working group report, Patricia Smith said, “We cannot underestimate the significance of the release of this report, considering the CDC just announced the latest case numbers for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The numbers show more than 42,000 reported cases due to underreporting. That means over 420,000 cases probably occurred in the United States in 2017 alone.”
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