Washington, DC- As Lyme disease impacts communities across Pennsylvania, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), highlighting county by county data, pushed for increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for Lyme disease surveillance. For the past five years, the state has reported the most Lyme disease cases nationwide and new reports indicate that all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have blacklegged deer ticks that carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Senator Casey discussed how Lyme disease goes underreported, and how increased funding for surveillance will enable better prevention and response efforts.
“As we enter the summer months, when Lyme risk is greatest, it is important to raise awareness among Pennsylvanians about the risk posed by tick-borne diseases,” said Senator Casey. “I have created a resource on my website to educate and raise awareness about this disease. We also need better surveillance for Lyme disease so that we have an accurate picture of how it affects Pennsylvanians. That is why I’m calling for more resources so that the CDC is better able to target prevention efforts and ensure that resources are available for the hardest-hit communities.”
Senator Casey’s resource hub for Lyme disease can be accessed here: LINK.
According to CDC, there were 4,981 cases of Lyme disease in the state in 2013. Nationally, in 2013 there were 27,203 confirmed cases of Lyme disease. A 2013 report from the state Department of Health says that there were 14,889 cases of Lyme disease in the state over the period of 2009-2011. There were approximately 1,000 more cases of Lyme disease reported in Pennsylvania in 2013 than in 2004, demonstrating the spread of the disease. A report issued last week from the state Department of Environmental Protection indicated that Lyme disease-carrying ticks have been identified in all 67 counties in the state for the first time.
A county-by-county report on Lyme disease is attached, and the text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:
Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:
As you continue your work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, I urge you to include additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to allow for improved surveillance efforts with respect to Lyme disease through the agency’s TickNET initiative.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease has become increasingly common over the last decade, and there are now over 27,000 cases reported each year. Yet we know that this disease is vastly under-reported; the CDC itself estimates that the reported cases are only one-tenth of the true number of cases, indicating a much greater public health burden.
The CDC plays an important role in supporting state disease surveillance efforts and aggregating data to determine national prevalence and trends. TickNET, a collaborative effort between the CDC and the 16 states with the highest rates of tick-borne diseases, supports the maintenance and enhancement of surveillance efforts where Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are concentrated. TickNET is funded through the core infectious diseases budget line, which received $225,393,000 in FY 2015.
Lyme disease is a serious illness about which too little is known. One of the most important steps we can take to address this problem is to invest in surveillance so that we have an accurate picture of the burden of this disease, and can work to help the people suffering as a result. I thank you for your consideration of this request.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator