RELEASE: With Summer Underway, Gottheimer Announces Bipartisan Federal Action to Combat Ticks & Lyme Disease in Jersey

NJ had the fifth-highest Lyme disease case rates in the U.S.

Jun 28, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation in Mahwah

MAHWAH, NJ — Today, June 28, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, announced bipartisan federal action to combat ticks, spread awareness to protect families, and boost investment in R&D for Lyme disease treatment.

Gottheimer was joined by environmental experts to highlight how North Jersey families can protect themselves from ticks and Lyme disease as they enjoy outdoor activities this summer.

According to data from 2020, the incidence rate of Lyme in New Jersey was more than five times the U.S. average and New Jersey had the fifth-highest Lyme disease case rates in the country. In 2021, there were 38 Lyme disease cases per 100,000 people in New Jersey.

50 percent of Lyme disease cases in New Jersey occur in June and July.

Annually, there are around 476,000 cases of Lyme disease reported across the United States. There is currently no cure for Lyme disease.

Today, Gottheimer announced that he is introducing the following bipartisan bills:

  • The bipartisan Tick Identification Pilot Program Act will award federal grants through the CDC for states to implement tick-identification programs. The program works by taking a picture of the tick, noting the location and date where it was encountered, and submitting it to a database to track encounters and best practices. Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (NJ-7) is helping lead this bipartisan legislation. The bipartisan bill will:
    • Allow individuals to electronically report tick incidents and receive feedback within 72 hours from experts as to the appropriate follow-up action. 
    • Boost research and education efforts, and spread awareness of where ticks are and where families should be careful.
    • Help families know the steps they should take and if they should seek medical help after a bite. 
    • Require the CDC to submit a report to Congress on steps they are taking and the effectiveness of the program. 
  • The bipartisan Stamp Out Lyme Disease Act will create a new postage stamp to supplement congressionally-appropriated research funding for Lyme and tick-borne disease treatments at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It will boost investment in R&D for Lyme disease treatment. Rep. Don Bacon (NE-2) is helping lead this bipartisan legislation.

“As we kick off the summer, we need to be aware of the real, legitimate threat of ticks, and a crippling disease they can spread, Lyme disease,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I want families to protect themselves from ticks and from the Lyme disease they may carry, all while enjoying the natural beauty we have to offer. And I want our residents and families who’ve been affected by Lyme disease to know I stand with them — to push federal bipartisan action forward to boost investment in finding new treatments, and to make sure any child with any impairment or disability from this disease can get the educational services and care they need.”

“This new legislation helps the Trail Conference advance our mission to ensure the trails and natural resources are accessible to the public,” said New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Director of Programs Hank Osborn. “In the later part of the last century of trail work, it has become clear that ticks and tick-borne illness are a barrier to outdoor recreation. Getting a handle on the tick situation will only improve our ability to help people get outdoors, out into the woods, and connect with nature. On behalf of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, thank you, Congressman Gottheimer.”  

“We thank U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey for reminding Americans of the importance of a reliable surveillance program for Lyme and tick-borne disease through the introduction of the Tick Identification Pilot Program Act of 2023.  Getting an accurate count, especially for those chronically ill with a tick-borne disease, is crucial for ensuring sufficient funding is dedicated to prevention, as well as diagnostic and therapeutic research,” said Bonnie Crater, Co-founder and Board Member at Center for Lyme Action.

Gottheimer was joined at today’s announcement at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation in Mahwah by Mahwah Council Member Michelle Crowe Paz, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Director of Programs Hank Osborn, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Advancement Director Pat Gallagher, and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference New Jersey Program Director Jesse Merbler.

Video of the announcement can be found here. 

Below: Gottheimer at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation in Mahwah

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

As we kick off the summer, we need to be aware of the real, legitimate threat of ticks, and a crippling disease they can spread, Lyme disease.

And as it’s been reported, there’s been a real uptick in ticks. 

I’m here this morning to make sure that New Jersey families know how to watch out for ticks as they enjoy activities outdoors this summer, and to announce new bipartisan federal legislation to help combat ticks and Lyme disease.

Lyme disease can be brutally debilitating, hard to detect and treat, and cause real long-term health issues. It’s a problem that we must try to solve. 

The federal actions I’m announcing today will help us understand exactly where we’re seeing a spike in ticks and the types of ticks our families are facing, spread awareness to keep our communities safe, and boost investment in R&D for Lyme disease treatment.

Here’s what we know about ticks this summer, here in North Jersey:

Annually, there are around 476,000 cases of Lyme disease reported across the United States.

Here in Jersey, and especially in more rural, beautifully-wooded communities like Mahwah, and across Passaic and Sussex Counties, Lyme disease is a major and growing threat. In fact, Lyme disease affects New Jersey families more than most other states.

According to data from 2020, the incidence rate of Lyme in New Jersey was more than five times the U.S. average and New Jersey had the fifth-highest Lyme disease case rates in the country. In 2021, there were 38 Lyme disease cases per 100,000 people in New Jersey.

50 percent of Lyme disease cases in New Jersey occur in June and July which is why it’s so important that we spread awareness today.

That means we have to be on the lookout for the culprit this summer: ticks.

Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected ticks, which can attach to any part of the human body.

High-brush or wooded areas like right here tend to harbor ticks, so families enjoying parks here in North Jersey this summer need to be careful. By using repellents, wearing proper clothing, and consistently checking yourself and your pets for ticks, and for a red circle on your skin, even after a tick bites and falls off, the risk of Lyme disease can be reduced. 

While Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics in many cases, it can also be difficult to diagnose because of its diverse manifestations and a lack of reliable testing options. Many of those infected do not realize their diagnosis until the symptoms have become severe. Even the tests we have for Lyme often produce false negatives several times before an accurate diagnosis. And, unfortunately, there is no cure right now. 

From the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, created by Congress, we know that 10 to 20 percent of Lyme disease patients will suffer from persistent symptoms, like muscle and joint pain, severe headaches, respiratory infections, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which can be chronic and disabling. And we have families here in North Jersey who have seen the impacts of this disease firsthand.

Too many New Jersey patients and families spend years waiting for the correct diagnosis.

My own sister-in-law has struggled with Lyme disease for more than a decade; one of my wife’s closest friends has faced debilitating years, too. It’s a silent attacker – and it’s time to fight back much more aggressively. 

That’s why, as a member of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus, I’m announcing two pieces of bipartisan legislation I’m leading in Congress so that we can better protect our families.

First, the bipartisan Tick Identification Pilot Program Act, that I’m introducing with Rep. Tom Kean, will award federal grants through the CDC for states to implement tick-identification programs. This program will allow individuals to electronically report tick incidents and receive feedback within 72 hours from experts as to the appropriate follow-up action. The program works by taking a picture of the tick, noting the location and date where it was encountered, and submitting it to a database to track encounters and best practices.

This will be crucial for research, education efforts, and spreading awareness of where ticks are and where families should be careful.

With tick season underway, it’s incredibly important that we have an understanding of where we’re seeing spikes and to also understand the types of ticks our families are facing. 

Too often, bug bites are thought to be harmless. This new legislation will help families know the steps they should take and if they should seek medical help after a bite. 

The CDC will also be required to submit a report to Congress on steps they are taking and the effectiveness of the program. 

Second, I’m also introducing bipartisan legislation, with Rep. Don Bacon from Nebraska, to boost investment in R&D for Lyme disease treatment. The Stamp Out Lyme Disease Act will create a brand-new postage stamp to supplement congressionally appropriated research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research treatments for Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

That means, when you’re out mailing a birthday card or sending a letter to your grandmother, you can help fund the research we need to finally find better treatments for this disease.

On these fronts, I’m proud that I’ll be working across the aisle. There is nothing partisan about a tick bite and Lyme disease. 

This is not a left or right issue. This affects our families, and we need to do more.

It’s my goal that families from across New Jersey and our entire region will come enjoy the outdoors here in the Garden State this summer — whether it’s here at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation, at the beautiful Delaware Water Gap, or on New Jersey’s 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which run right through this Congressional District. 

And I can’t thank the Trail Conference enough for everything they do to keep our trails and natural outdoor spaces sustainable, accessible, safe, and clean for families across Jersey. It’s because of their hard work that we have beautiful trails just like this one right here in North Jersey and across the state.

I want families to protect themselves from ticks and from the Lyme disease they may carry, all while enjoying the natural beauty we have to offer. 

And I want our residents and families who’ve been affected by Lyme disease to know I stand with them — to push federal bipartisan action forward to boost investment in finding new treatments, and to make sure any child with any impairment or disability from this disease can get the educational services and care they need. 

To make progress on this, we must work together at every level — in Congress, and right here at home. Only then will we be able to overcome Lyme disease and its impacts.

I have every faith — by working together, like we’re coming together today, here in the greatest country in the world— that our best days will always be ahead of us.

God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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