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Bill to help fight Alzheimer's

8:27 PM, Dec 20, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- It's being hailed as a way to bring Georgia together with the federal government in fighting a common enemy: Alzheimer's disease.  State Senator Renee Unterman of Gwinnett announced she'd be sponsoring SB 14 Thursday.  

It's a bill that will put together a long term plan for funding, fighting and educating those affected by the disease. A similar plan was already put together by the federal government in May.

Advocates say a state plan is still sorely needed.

"Alzheimer's is a very serious problem not just here in Georgia," Unterman said. "Unfortunately Georgia is one of 16 states in the nation that has not developed a plan like this."

5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer's right now, and the number is expected to triple in the coming decades as more baby boomers age and retire. 

According to Alzheimers.org, mortality rates for major causes of death like heart disease, stroke, and HIV/AIDS are down over the last decade. Yet mortality rates for Alzheimer's, the sixth-leading cause of death in the US, have surged 66% over the same period.

"We don't even have progress in the disease, we have no cure, we have no bright light at this point, there are things that are happening but nothing is coming to fruition," said Dr. Alyssa Easton.

Easton is 46 years old, and has been diagnosed with an early-onset form of Alzheimer's. She's been told she has 16 years to live.

"I'm a very positive person, and I'm looking forward to life, I'm not thinking so much about death even though my diagnosis is a terminal disease," Easton said.

Easton has chosen to fight the disease with all she's got. And because she works at the CDC, she already knows a thing or two about fighting diseases. She says the task force created by this bill will bring the recognition necessary to fight Alzheimer's like other awareness campaigns did against cancer and AIDS.

Dr. Allan Levey, head of Neurology at Emory University and the Alzheimer's Research Center there, said this is a momentous day for those fighting the disease.

"The way I look at it we could have the cure sitting on a table somewhere, and we need some public action to have us all wake up," Levey said. "This is really the first step in order to get everybody working together."

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