Bill proposed to stamp out Lyme disease

A bite from an infected tick can cause Lyme disease. File photo

HUDSON — New York is looking at creating a postage stamp to help fund research treatments for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

The Stamp Out Lyme Disease Act was introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-1. If passed, the legislation would create a postage stamp to supplement congressionally appropriated research funds for the National Institute of Health to study treatments for Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

“Lyme disease is an urgent and persistent threat in our upstate New York communities. Ticks and the diseases they carry threaten our health and well-being,” Delgado said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will raise awareness about the disease and directly support medical research to treat and cure tick-borne illnesses. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me in introducing this important measure.”

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates about 476,000 Americans are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease each year. Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick.

The symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migraines. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics in the early stages. The CDC said people who receive early treatment usually make a rapid and complete recovery.

New York is among the top areas in the nation for tick-borne illnesses. The CDC reported New York had the second-highest number of confirmed Lyme disease cases with 2,847 in 2019, second only to Pennsylvania, which had 6,763 confirmed cases for the year.

If the legislation passes, money from the commissioned postage stamp would be used by the National Institute of Health.

Specifically, the funding goes to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The funding would supplement research dollars appropriated each year by Congress.

Columbia County has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the state. The CDC tracks confirmed cases in each county in the nation. From 2000 to 2019 Columbia County had a total of 7,580 confirmed Lyme disease cases, which is the second highest in the state. The highest is Dutchess County which had 11,519 confirmed cases. Greene County has the eighth highest amount of confirmed cases in the state with 2,879 from 2000 to 2019.

“Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in the U.S. and can be fatal if left untreated,” Zeldin said in a statement. “My home state of New York has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the entire nation. Having personal experience with Lyme disease, I can tell you it is a serious matter that requires our immediate attention. We must do more to advance preventative and recovery efforts for Lyme disease, which is why I’m proud to work in bipartisan fashion to continue providing the National Institutes of Health with the resources needed for its important Lyme disease research.”

In 2019 a similar bill had been introduced to the house, but it was never voted on or passed.

In December 2020, Delgado voted to pass the bipartisan Consolidated Apportions Act 2021, which included new investments in Lyme disease treatment and prevention such as a $10 million increase for the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Lyme disease and Other Tick-Borne Disease program.

The agreement encourages the promotion and development of potential vaccine candidates for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, and $5 million in new funding for the Kay Hagan Tick Act, to promote a public health approach to combat rising cases of tick-borne diseases. The agreement directs the CDC to improve early diagnosis of Lyme and related tick-borne diseases to prevent the development of late-stage disease and more serious and long-term disability.

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