Romney reaches for moms, exurbs: Will tackle ticks, Lyme epidemic

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

In a bid for worried moms in the outer suburbs populated with whitetail deer and other wildlife carrying tick-borne Lyme disease, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pledging to devote his administration to fighting for a cure.

"Clearly this disease is spreading throughout the nation. More needs to be done," he said in a letter to two House advocates of more federal funding and attention on Lyme. "As president, I will work to ensure that more attention is focused on this important issue," said Romney in a letter provided to Secrets.

In writing to northern Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf and Trenton, N.J. Rep. Chris Smith, Romney pledged to do more than President Obama and would coordinate federal attention on a solution and care of those suffering from the debilitating disease that often starts with a simple tick bite.

"My administration will work with you to help those suffering live productive, healthy lives," he wrote on campaign letterhead. Romney said he became aware of Lyme while governor of Massachusetts where it had a "devastating impact..."

The disease has now spread to 49 states and several countries and has become the focus of Capitol Hill as more and more Americans get hit with it, especially children playing in their yards.

Wolf, who is also fighting for more money to fight another pest in his district--the brown marmorated stink bug--said the tick is reaching a crisis stage in large part because deer populations in outer suburbs are exploding. He and Smith have been fighting for doctors to give better diagnoses, insurance companies to cover treatment and federal researchers to come up with an effective vaccine.

They pushed to include $9 million in funding to research Lyme and other tick-born diseases this year.

Wolf said he's seen the issue up close, noting that one family he knows has three members afflicted with Lyme and he added that more than half the dogs in northern Virginia's Fauquier County, just south of Washington, have Lyme.