A new report urges federal lawmakers to do more to prevent the spread of a serious illness that is frequently misdiagnosed and left untreated.

A special panel of researchers, physicians, patients and experts in tick-borne diseases is recommending more be done to understand and stop Lyme disease and develop new ways to treat those afflicted with it.

“The testing we have now for Lyme disease is certainly not in any way, shape or form acceptable," said Pat Smith, the president of the Jackson-based Lyme Disease Association and a member of the working group that issued the report.

The report recommends development of different antibiotic combinations or other types of therapeutic options that might be useful in treating Lyme.

She noted another recommendation is to improve the way Lyme disease cases are identified and reported, “because surveillance right now across the U.S. is really not good at all.”

She said right now funding to study and prevent the spread of Lyme is “pretty pathetic and that needs to increase.”

Smith stressed ramping up efforts to combat Lyme and other tick borne diseases as quickly as possible is critically important because “Lyme disease can cause people to have so many problems physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically, and often times they have to be out of work for months or longer.”

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include exhaustion, headaches and body aches, dizziness, numbness, heart palpitations, facial paralysis, confusion, depression, a loss of balance, loss of memory as well as speech, eye and ear problems.

Some Lyme patients also struggle with depression.

Last year, New Jersey had 5,092 reported cases of Lyme disease, the third highest total of any state in the nation. But Smith said the actual number may be 10 times greater because most cases are never reported.

Pennsylvania had the most official Lyme disease cases reported, followed by New York.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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