By Curt Sonney (R-Erie)
Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of being the state with the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the country. In fact, in 2016, Pennsylvania reported 12,200 cases of Lyme disease, which is a significant increase from the prior year at 10,817 cases.
To help combat the disease, we have passed a law creating a task force to study Lyme disease and provide recommendations for public education, surveillance and prevention of the disease. Also, earlier this month, the House Health Committee passed legislation to ensure coverage of available and emerging diagnostic and treatment options for Lyme and related tick-borne diseases. I am looking forward to having this legislation come before the whole House for a vote in the near future so we can move forward with helping those individuals coping with the disease.
Media reports are already claiming that this year is expected to be bad for Lyme disease due to a higher-than-normal tick population. And, with May being Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Pennsylvania, I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone to take precautions when heading outdoors to go fishing, hunting, camping or enjoying other activities that take individuals into wooded areas.
The best ways to prevent tick-borne illnesses are to avoid tick-infested habitats, use personal protective measures such as repellents and protective clothing, and frequently check for and remove attached ticks when in an infested habitat.
To help keep ticks away from your property, homeowners should reduce tick habitats by clearing underbrush and trees, reduce mouse populations, spray the perimeter of their property with Permethrin sprays, keep grass short and use a three-foot perimeter of wood chip edging.
Once Lyme disease is contracted, it can infect several different parts of the body making diagnosis difficult. Symptoms often vary from person to person. However, some typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic circular skin rash called Eythema Migrans (EM).
Early diagnosis is important in fighting Lyme disease. Most cases of the disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started early enough. However, left untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, resulting in increasingly serious complications and requiring intensive therapy.
I encourage everyone to be safe from early spring to late fall, when ticks are most active, and take the proper precautions and educate yourselves before heading out into tick habitat. For more information on Lyme disease, visit my website at RepSonney.com
Representative Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman