WASHINGTON, D.C.—Womble Bond Dickinson’s Gregg Skall was an invited speaker at the Dec. 11 meeting of the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group, telling the group that better tests are needed to identify and treat patients suffering from tick-borne illnesses.

Skall, the long-time pro bono counsel for the National Capital Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Association, described tick-borne diseases as a growing healthcare crisis that needs greater attention from the medical community. “Patients are still being misdiagnosed and denied treatment, and the incidence of tick-borne diseases is surging,” he said. “The key to any future advancement lies in better diagnostic tools.”

He said that current testing frequently fails to detect tick-borne diseases until weeks or months after infection—well after the optimum time to begin treatment. Skall asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand its funding criteria to include emerging, innovative researchers.

“You must find ways to bring together all the best minds and theories,” he said.

Skall also called for expanded clinical trials for lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

The Tick-Borne Disease Working Group is an advisory committee of the Department of Health and Human Services. Members represent medical providers with experience diagnosing and treating tick-borne diseases; scientists/researchers with relevant expertise; patients and their family members; and nonprofit organizations that advocate for patients affected tick-borne diseases.

Tick-borne diseases are a serious public health problem.  Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease, but there are at least 20 different infections that are transmitted by ticks in the United States.  According to the CDC, more than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each year. The number of new cases has been increasing in recent years, and the areas where ticks are found are expanding, which puts more people in more states at potential risk.

The Tick-Borne Disease Working Group was established by Congress in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act to provide subject matter expertise and to review federal efforts related to all tick-borne diseases, to help ensure interagency coordination and minimize overlap, and to examine research priorities.

Gregg Skall represents broadcasters and other parties in their regulatory dealings before the Federal Communications Commission and in their commercial business dealings. He serves as Washington Counsel to several state broadcaster associations. He also works with telecommunications companies and with radio device manufacturers to obtain FCC approvals.