Monica White of Poncha Springs has been appointed to a subcommittee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.
A former U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist, White is co-founder and president of the Colorado Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating awareness of tick-borne diseases through education, prevention, research and advocacy.
White worked outdoors during her career before becoming ill with Lyme disease and multiple co-infections transmitted by ticks. Her entire family was impacted by these diseases as well.
“I feel that my background as a federal wildlife biologist, experience as a patient and mother of children with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, as well as my work in advocacy, allows me to provide valuable input to the working group tasks,” said White, a member of the Public Tick Integrated Pest Management Working Group who also served on the Disease Vectors, Surveillance and Prevention Subcommittee.
Congress established the working group 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 inter-agency coordination, minimize overlap and examine research priorities.
The focus of this effort is the development of a report to the secretary of Health and Human Services and Congress on findings and recommendations for the federal response to tick-borne disease prevention, treatment and research, and ways to address gaps in these areas.
White said risk of exposure to diseases varies regionally, but tick-borne diseases are relevant in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountain region. People and pets that spend greater time in the outdoors or travel face greater exposure, with children being at highest risk.
These diseases are challenging to diagnose and even more difficult to treat if not caught early. “Lyme and other serious tick-borne diseases are a growing issue nationally and globally, and we are lacking the awareness and resources needed to adequately prevent, recognize and treat them,” White said.
The 53-member working group includes six subcommittees with federal and nonfederal representatives from diverse scientific disciplines, representatives from patient organizations and members of the public. The group will submit a report every two years, starting in December.
Key tasks include development and implementation of a summary of federally funded projects focused on Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, reviews of the scientific literature, as well as information provided at subcommittee meetings by subject matter experts and by patients and their families.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease even though there are at least 20 different infections transmitted by ticks in the U.S. More than 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each year.
The Colorado Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Association will host its third annual Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Diseases: Rocky Mountain Forum at the PACE Center in Parker on Saturday, May 19. Experts from across the country will be presenting. The event is free and open to the public, and medical care providers are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact White at firstname.lastname@example.org, 719-539-4206 or 719-221-1537 or visit ColoradoTicks.org.
For information about the Tick Borne Disease Working Group process, visit https://www.hhs.gov/ash/advisory-committees/tickbornedisease/index.html.