U.S. lawmakers want to investigate an old conspiracy theory claiming that the government is weaponizing ticks, causing the spread of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever that infect thousands of Americans every year.
Congressman Calls For Probe On Alleged Bioweapons Experiments
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives ordered an investigation to find out if the Department of Defense experimented with ticks and other insects for use as biological weapons.
In an amendment authored by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, the House orders the department's inspector general to determine if government scientists conducted bioweapons experiments that aim to weaponize ticks and insects between the years 1950 and 1975, and if the insects escaped the confines of the lab and made their way into public spaces.
Conspiracy Theory From Books And Articles
Smith cited a number of books and articles that suggested U.S. government facilities, including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, did significant research to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons.
Smith said that the book, Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, includes interviews with Willy Burgdorfer, who discovered Lyme disease.
"The book reveals that Dr. Burgdorfer was a bioweapons specialist," Smith said. "Those interviews combined with access to Dr. Burgdorfer's lab files suggest that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause severe disability, disease—even death—to potential enemies,"
If Pentagon's probe confirms the Defense department indeed weaponized Lyme disease in ticks, the amendment wants a report on the scope of the experiment, and whether the insects used were released from any laboratory intentionally as part of the experiment design, or by accident.
Lyme disease can cause rash, fever, facial paralysis, muscle aches, and joint pain. If left untreated the disease can lead to arthritis, as well as nervous system and heart problems.
State health departments and the District of Columbia report a total of 30,000 cases of Lyme disease each year, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number could be far higher, citing recent estimates of other methods that about 300,000 people in the United States may get Lyme disease each year.