Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ask your Congressman to co-sign letter for Lyme Department of Defense Money

This just in:

CALL TO ACTION 2009 #3
from Pat Smith, President, Lyme Disease Association

A Dear Colleague letter has gone out from Congressmen Christopher Smith (NJ) and Bart Stupak (MI) to their fellow Members of the House of Representatives asking them to co-sign the letter below. The deadline for Congressmen to sign on is March 31, 2009.

ACTION FOR YOU TO TAKE:
1.Click here to determine who your own US House Member is (you only have one)
2. Call your own Congressman (or you can email him/her)
3. Ask him/her to sign onto this Department of Defense appropriations letter.

WHAT TO SAY TO YOUR CONGRESSMAN:
Sample phone blurb asking your Congressman to sign appropriations letter;

"I am calling to urge the Congressman/woman to co-sign the Department of Defense Appropriations letter from Congressmen Christopher Smith and Bart Stupak. The letter asks for $10 million for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases research. These monies can help the military and patients everywhere. Your office has already received a “Dear Colleague” about signing on to the letter. The Congressman can contact either Congressman Smith’s or Bart Stupak’s office. Please make sure he meets the March 31 deadline. Thank you. (Give your name, address, phone number)

PLEASE DO NOT:
Do not Contact Congressman Smith or Bart Stupak’s office yourself. Only your Congressman should contact either one of them to co-sign the letter.

For other information on Lyme disease legislation and funding issues, go to LDA’s new Legislation webpage.

Letter to the Department of Defense from Congressmen Christopher Smith and Bart Stupak

The Honorable John P. Murtha, Chairman
The Honorable C.W. Bill Young, Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
Room H-149 The Capitol
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Murtha and Ranking Member Young:

We are requesting that you provide $10 million in the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) for research on tick-borne diseases, with particular emphasis on Lyme disease.

Lyme and other tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are a significant threat to military forces, including not only at U.S. bases and training facilities, but at many oversees locations. Lyme disease has been found in at least 65 countries worldwide. Disease causing ticks are endemic on many domestic military bases and are increasing their range across the U.S. In one sample of black legged ticks collected at Camp Lejeune last year, 35% were carriers of the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, that causes Lyme disease.

Funding is needed in the CDMRP for research on TBD’s, including to develop more sensitive and accurate diagnostic tests for Lyme and to increase understanding of the full range of Lyme disease processes and the physiology of Borrelia burgdorferi, including the mechanisms of persistent infection.

Many TBDs are growing problems in the military, with the highest reporting of suspected cases being Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Lyme is the most frequently suspected TBD in the military and is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the US today, accounting for 90 percent of all vector-borne infections in the U.S. About 270,000 Americans developed Lyme disease in 2007. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the 27,444 new cases reported in 2007 represent only 10% of the actual cases meeting its stringent surveillance criteria.

If not diagnosed and treated early, Lyme disease can lead to disseminated and persistent illness and can affect every system in the body, including the central nervous system. At a blood products advisory committee meeting on Babesia in the blood supply last fall, Dr. Jesse Goodman, M.D., an infectious disease physician and Director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, made the observation, “I will say I just finished a month of clinical attending at the Naval hospital in the summer, and I was actually fairly shocked by the number of cases of disseminated Lyme disease that we are seeing. So I think that the notion that we have control over tick-borne disease … we don’t really have a good hand on how many cases of primary infection there are.”

The US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM), states that “later symptoms of LD can begin to appear shortly after the initial symptoms or not until weeks to months later. These symptoms occur as spirochetes begin to spread via the blood stream and lymph into tissues in other parts of the body. These symptoms may include complications of the joints, the nervous system, and the heart.”

USACHPPM further states that “cases presenting with only disseminated stage complications can sometimes be very difficult to diagnose.” The high rate of false negative diagnostic tests and the misdiagnosis of Lyme (the great imitator) as another disability is of extreme concern because lack of early treatment allows the disease to become disseminated and much harder to treat. According to USACHPPM, “In advanced disease, treatment failures may occur and retreatment may be necessary.”

Thank you for your consideration of this extremely important request that will be a direct and significant benefit to the military as well as to large numbers of sick individuals who may be suffering from one or more TBD’s so that they can be accurately diagnosed and appropriately treated, and to treating physicians and health departments across the country.

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