PORTLAND, Maine (CBS/AP) — A bipartisan push for more data about Lyme disease has yielded a new estimate that nearly a half million people are diagnosed and treated for the disease every year.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to publish new data about the tick-borne infection. The senators said Tuesday the new calculation is about ten times higher than the number of annual reported Lyme cases.

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“This new data showing that Lyme disease remains vastly under-reported by a factor of 10 underscores the fact that tick-borne illnesses are a serious and growing public health threat,” Collins said in a statement.

Collins and Smith wrote the Kay Hagan Tick Act, which was enacted in December 2019. The act was named for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who died from complications of the tick-borne Powassan virus in 2019.

Better data will allow the federal government to better combat the disease, Collins said.

Lyme disease is transmitted by tick bites and can be reduced with steps such as wearing repellent and protective clothing.

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Maine has the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the country, according to Collins, with more than 1,400 confirmed cases in 2018.

In 2019, Lyme was found in more than a third of deer ticks tested in Maine.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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