Washington, D.C.--On Tuesday, Feb. 11 in the U.S. Capitol, Senator Susan Collins was honored with the Congressional Lyme Champion Award from the Center for Lyme Action (CLA) for her leadership in the pursuit of a cure for Lyme disease. Following the award presentation, Senator Collins delivered the opening address at the CLA’s inaugural Washington, D.C., Fly-In dinner.
“Thanks to the knowledge and dedication of the Center for Lyme Action, Lyme disease is finally receiving the attention this growing health threat deserves,” said Senator Collins. “I am grateful for this recognition. With the national effort the Kay Hagan Tick Act sets into motion, including the allocation of additional federal resources, I am optimistic that we can better protect the health of more Americans. With the effective advocacy from the Center for Lyme Action, we will identify, control, and knockout these devastating diseases.”
“Lyme is a frustrating and debilitating disease, but it’s a problem we can solve,” said Bonnie Crater, co-founder of the Center for Lyme Action. “It is our honor to present Senator Collins with the Congressional Lyme Champion Award for her extraordinary leadership in finding a cure for Lyme disease.”
The incidence of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases has exploded over the past 15 years. In 2003, Lyme disease infected around 30,000 Americans. The latest estimates show there are nearly half a million Americans suffering from Lyme. In Maine, there were a record 2,079 newly reported cases of Lyme disease last year, nearly triple the number of cases in 2010. Other tick-borne diseases are also on the rise – in Maine, for example, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis have increased several-fold in this same period.
Yesterday, the Bangor Daily News reported that the University of Maine’s Tick Lab found that nearly 40 percent of Maine deer ticks submitted in 2019 tested positive for Lyme disease. In September, Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee, convened a field hearing at the UMaine Tick Lab, where experts and witnesses discussed the critical need to pass the Kay Hagan Tick Act that she authored with Senator Tina Smith (D-MN). Senators Collins and Smith’s legislation was signed into law in December. This bill applies a three-pronged public health approach to address Lyme and other vector-borne diseases, authorizing $150 million over a five-year period. Senators Collins and Smith renamed the bill in honor of former Senator Kay Hagan, who passed away Oct. 28, 2019, due to complications from the tick-borne disease known as the Powassan virus.
Center for Lyme Action is a non-profit organization dedicated to growing federal funding for Lyme disease in an effort to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure.