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Lyme Disease Awareness, Prevention and Treatment

May 17, 2017
In The News

There are so many features of our local environment to enjoy on Long Island, between the Pine Barrens, nature rails, or the significant number of state parks and beaches scattered throughout our area. However, as a natural reality of our enjoyment of these treasures, we also have to contend with tick-borne illness, incidents of which skyrocket during the summer months. The most common tickborne infection in the United States is Lyme Disease, which affects tens of thousands of Americans every year. Here in New York, in 2015, we had the third highest rate of Lyme Disease contraction. As someone who has personally contracted this disease, I can tell you that it is a very serious matter which requires our attention. We must do more to advance prevention and recovery efforts for Lyme Disease, which can be fatal if left untreated.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and as members of a community which has an above average rate of contraction, we must each do our part to educate and minimize incidents of occurrence. Early indicators of Lyme Disease include flu-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle aches, and fatigue, as well as rashes, which often times may look like a bullseye. The key to prevention is tick check and removal, especially if you are out enjoying the summer in fields or tall grass. Should you or a member of your family suspect that you may have contracted the disease, it is so important that medical assistance is sought out as soon as possible.

I have been honored to be part of the effort to combat Lyme Disease as your Representative. In the last Congress, I cosponsored and helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34). This new law accelerates the process for scientific advancement, gives researchers access to necessary resources, and helps deliver lifesaving or life improving cures and treatments to Americans suffering from a disease. This critical piece of legislation provides $4.8 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which conducts essential medical and public health research on illnesses such as Lyme. I was also a cosponsor of the Tick-Borne Disease Research and Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 789), which passed as part of H.R. 34, to further advance research on Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.

In addition, the recently enacted budget provides a $2 billion dollar increase for NIH, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which focuses its efforts on diseases like Lyme. This funding will allow researchers to continue their work in finding new cures and treatments for the most prevalent diseases affecting Americans. The budget also increases funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by $22 million. CDC conducts annual research on the effects of this disease, as well as preventative measures.

Long Island is home to one of the most beautiful and unique environments throughout the entire nation, and with this distinction comes the responsibility of ensuring our residents remain protected. This month, we must stay vigilant and prepare ourselves to deal with the spread of Lyme Disease. While I will continue my work in Congress to ensure research for this disease remains funded at the appropriate levels, we must all join together as a community to overcome this challenge.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Financial Services Committee, represents the First Congressional District of New York.