U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Susan Collins Address Rise in Tick-Borne Diseases and Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Target, Prevent, and Treat Lyme Disease

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/23/19]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), in a bipartisan effort, pushed for improving research and treatment efforts that address the sharp rise in tick-borne diseases.
The Ticks: Identify, Control, and Knockout (TICK) Act, improves coordination between government response at the federal and local levels to tick borne diseases.

“Minnesotans are eager to get outside after a long winter,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “Unfortunately, the number of Lyme disease cases in the state—and states across the country—is on the rise. Our bipartisan bill aims to reduce the number of cases by establishing an effort to target, prevent, and treat Lyme disease. We made sure to collaborate with universities and public health agencies, and our bipartisan bill is supported by a coalition of researchers, medical professionals, and government officials from across the country. We hope our colleagues join us so we can quickly take up and pass this bill.”

Using a three-pronged approach, the TICK Act would:
1.      Establish an Office of Oversight and Coordination for Vector-Borne Disease at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The office would develop a national strategy to prevent and treat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, expand research, and improve testing, treatment affordability, and public awareness.  The Office would also coordinate with other federal departments to address these diseases, including the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.
2.      Reauthorize Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease for five years at $10 million per year.  Funding for these centers, which was allotted in 2017, expires in 2021.  These Centers have led the scientific response against tick-borne diseases, which now make up 75 percent of vector-borne diseases in the U.S.  There are five centers located at universities in New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin. 
3.      Authorize CDC Grants at $20 million per year that would be awarded to State Health Departments to improve data collection and analysis, support early detection and diagnosis, improve treatment, and raise awareness.  These awards would help states build a public health infrastructure for Lyme and other vector-borne diseases and amplify their initiatives through public-private partnerships.   

In 2016, Congress took a critical step forward with the enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, which created a federal Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group.  This Working Group released its first report in November 2018, which created several recommendations for next steps. With the findings of this report in mind, this legislation puts key recommendations into practice.

The TICK Act is supported by more than 25 organizations, including the Entomological Society of America, National Association of Vector-Borne Disease Control Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Midcoast Lyme Disease Support & Education Organization in Maine, the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, and the LivLyme Foundation.