What's next in NY's Lyme disease fight

ALBANY -- New York is updating its strategy on how to battle ticks and tick-borne diseases.

The state Senate's task force on Lyme and tick-borne diseases released its most recent report Tuesday, outlining the current situation with the tick problem in New York and what the task force is trying to do about it.

“It is imperative that the state makes combating these devastating diseases a top priority. While progress has been made since the formation of the Task Force, this report provides a much needed road map to take our work to the next level,” the group's co-chair Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, Dutchess County, in a statement.

New York is one of the places where the tick problem is the most severe around the country, and lawmakers introduced new bills to require more reporting and actions by the state.

Ticks and the diseases they carry were especially bad this year, according to the report. The tick most common in the state is the deer tick, and the most common tick-borne disease in the state is Lyme disease.

The task force held a public hearing last August to discuss the current state of the tick problem.

The new report also discusses what the task force is trying to do to alleviate that problem. Those who attended the hearing included a number or doctors and medical professionals, the state health commissioner, academic researchers and patients who have Lyme or other tick-borne diseases.

The state Health Department reported there are approximately 8,000 cases of Lyme disease each year in New York.

Between 2000 and 2015, Dutchess County led the state with 11,831 cases of Lyme disease, followed by 5,058 cases in Ulster County; 4,640 cases in Westchester; and 2,641 cases in Rockland County, according to the report, citing statistics from U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The task force also plans to help the tick problem in New York by raising awareness for tick-borne diseases, educating the public about the signs and symptoms of tick illnesses, warning about the dangers of tick-bites and promoting more testing for people, especially children who show signs of a tick-borne disease.

The report also cautions about some of the common misconceptions about these diseases. Many people believe that Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics; the task force found that this is not always the case.

Most people are also unaware of the possibilities for false negatives when being tested for Lyme. The report warns the public about the issues that there can be in diagnosing and treating these tick spread illnesses.

Lawmakers sponsored a bill this month that calls for the state Health Department to develop a standard way of diagnosing and treating Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.

Several New Yorkers who spoke at the public hearing discussed having to live with the painful symptoms of these diseases because they were wrongly diagnosed, or had gone undiagnosed by doctors for long periods of time.

Legislators said one of the findings from patient testimony was inaccuracies in testing for tick-borne illnesses, with some suffering with symptoms for years before an accurate diagnosis and treatment could be found.

“With New York sitting at the epicenter of the tick-borne disease epidemic, we have a duty to engage partners at every level to act swiftly and efficiently to improve outcomes for the thousands of patients suffering around the state,” said Senator Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, in a statement.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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