Pen­tagon pressed for an­swers on Lyme, other tick-borne dis­eases com­mon in Rapp

Rappahannock News - - 11 - By John McCaslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

The U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives this past week passed an amend­ment of­fered by Repub­li­can Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey di­rect­ing the Pen­tagon’s In­spec­tor Gen­eral to in­ves­ti­gate the “pos­si­ble in­volve­ment of DOD biowar­fare labs in the weaponiza­tion of Lyme dis­ease in ticks and other insects” from 1950 to 1975.

Smith said he was “in­spired” to write the amend­ment — now part of the 2020 Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act — by “a num­ber of books and ar­ti­cles sug­gest­ing that sig­nif­i­cant re­search had been done at U.S. gov­ern­ment fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing Fort Det­rick, Mary­land and Plum Is­land, New York to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.

“With Lyme dis­ease and other tick­borne dis­eases ex­plod­ing in the United States — with an es­ti­mated 300,000 to 437,000 new cases di­ag­nosed each year and 10-20 per­cent of all pa­tients suf­fer­ing from chronic Lyme dis­ease — Amer­i­cans have a right to know whether any of this [De­fense Depart­ment in­volve­ment] is true,” Smith said.

If so, the law­maker wants to know if there ever was any ac­ci­den­tal re­lease at any time of any dis­eased ticks or were any ticks re­leased by de­sign?

Ninety-five per­cent of all con­firmed cases of Lyme dis­ease in the United States stem from just 14 states, Vir­ginia ranked among them. Rap­pa­han­nock County has been an ab­so­lute bulls­eye of Lyme cases in the com­mon­wealth and new in­fec­tions here re­main ex­tremely high, as they also are now around Roanoke and Blacks­burg.

Vir­ginia counts 17 species of ticks, in­clud­ing the newly discovered Asia longhorned tick that prefers latch­ing on in moun­tain­ous and cat­tle-rais­ing ar­eas. The Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health warns that this new ar­rival could trans­mit every­thing from Lyme to spot­ted fever rick­ettsio­sis.

As Congressma­n Smith pointed out, the most re­cent book “Bit­ten: The Se­cret His­tory of Lyme Dis­ease and Bi­o­log­i­cal Weapons,” in­cludes in­ter­views with Dr. Willy Burgdor­fer, a bioweapons spe­cial­ist and re­searcher who is cred­ited with dis­cov­er­ing Lyme dis­ease. Those in­ter­views, com­bined with ac­cess to the doc­tor’s lab files, sug­gest he and other bioweapons spe­cial­ists “stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause se­vere dis­abil­ity, dis­ease — even death — to po­ten­tial en­e­mies,” said Smith.

“My amend­ment tasks the DOD In­spec­tor Gen­eral to ask the hard ques­tions and re­port back,” he con­tin­ued.

Smith said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would ex­plore such ques­tions as what were the pa­ram­e­ters of the pro­gram and who or­dered it? Also, did the pro­gram con­trib­ute to the dis­ease bur­den, and if so can any of this in­for­ma­tion help cur­rent-day re­searchers find a way to mit­i­gate these dis­eases?

In ad­di­tion, Smith is the au­thor of the pend­ing bi­par­ti­san, bi­cam­eral TICK Act (HR 3073) in­tro­duced ear­lier this year to cre­ate a whole-of-gov­ern­ment na­tional strat­egy to ag­gres­sively fight Lyme dis­ease. The TICK Act au­tho­rizes an ad­di­tional $180 mil­lion to boost fund­ing for Lyme re­search, preven­tion and treat­ment pro­grams.

A found­ing co-chair of the House Lyme Dis­ease Cau­cus, along with Demo­cratic Rep. Collin Peter­son of Min­nesota, the Repub­li­can said the bill pro­vides $60 mil­lion over five years to reau­tho­rize the Re­gional Cen­ters of Ex­cel­lence in Vec­tor Borne Dis­ease. The bill also au­tho­rizes new CDC grants for a to­tal of $120 mil­lion over six years, to build a pub­lic health in­fra­struc­ture for Lyme and other tick-borne dis­eases.

Just last month, the House adopted two other Smith amend­ments to boost fund­ing for com­bat­ing Lyme dis­ease.

“With Lyme dis­ease and other tick-borne dis­eases ex­plod­ing in the United States — with an es­ti­mated 300,000 to 437,000 new cases di­ag­nosed each year and 1020 per­cent of all pa­tients suf­fer­ing from chronic Lyme dis­ease — Amer­i­cans have a right to know whether any of this [ De­fense Depart­ment in­volve­ment] is true.” — Rep. Chris Smith

AMER­I­CAN LIFE LEAGUE VIA FLICKR

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