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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: March 31, 2016 02:07 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Lyme Disease Awareness Month
I plan to offer a resolution designating May 2016 as “Lyme Disease Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted primarily by ticks and is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases and disorders, such as babesiosis, bartonella and ehrlichiosis, pose a serious threat to the quality of life of many Pennsylvanians, with the frequency of diagnosed and reported Lyme disease cases increasing dramatically over the past several years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent 15-year surveillance study (October 2008) reveals continued emergence and geographic expansion across the United States. In August 2013, the CDC released a report that preliminary estimates indicate approximately 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. This is approximately 10 times higher than the number of cases previously reported to the CDC every year.

In the last five years, Pennsylvania ranked highest in the country in the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease. From 2002 to 2014, Pennsylvania reported a total of 59,478 confirmed cases of Lyme disease and in 2015 reported 10,817 new cases. In 2015, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection study was published confirming a high risk of Lyme disease in every county of the Commonwealth (67 counties had the black legged tick) verifying that every Pennsylvanian, from Philadelphia to Erie, must take precautions to prevent the spread of Lyme disease.

The most common way to acquire Lyme disease and related diseases is to be bitten by a tick that carries the spirochete. This disease is not limited to age or ethnic boundaries. Lyme disease can cause early symptoms such as a rash or flu-like symptoms, fever, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue that can easily be misdiagnosed. If not caught early, Lyme disease can lead to chronic debilitating illness that is very difficult to eradicate.

The prevention of Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders is difficult. If proper caution is taken while engaged in outdoor activities from early spring through late fall, frequent tick checks are made and ticks are removed and disposed of promptly and properly, the people of this Commonwealth can greatly reduce their chances of tick pathogen transmission. Individuals can greatly reduce the risk of Lyme disease on their properties through landscape, insecticide, and other measures found to be effective. Schools can greatly reduce the risk of Lyme and related diseases among schoolchildren through prevention education and precautions, including instruction to parents regarding steps to take in advance and after such school related activities, such as field trips and sports.

Individuals should be aware of early, disseminated, and late/persistent symptoms and that a negative Lyme test cannot rule out Lyme disease. The early clinical diagnosis and appropriate treatment of these tick-borne disorders and diseases can greatly reduce the risks of continued, diverse and chronic symptoms which can affect every system and organ of the human body and often every aspect of their lives.

Introduced as SR338