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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2022 01:35 PM
From: Senator Michele Brooks
To: All Senate members
Subject: Lyme Disease Education of Parents, and Establishing Protocols for Tick Bites in Schools
I will be re-introducing legislation to establish a standard protocol when a tick is found on a child during the school day. The bill would require school officials to notify parents about the tick removal and the symptoms of Lyme disease.

These recommendations were among several action steps advanced by medical and entomological experts who testified at a Lyme disease hearing on October 24, 2017, which was led by the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.

The hope is that parents will become more aware of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, and better educated about testing, diagnosis and treatment.

The notice to parents will inform them that not all tick bites lead to Lyme. However, if their child experiences a rash within 3 to 30 days, the child should be checked by their family physician. Parents would also be encouraged to mark their calendars when the tick bite occurred, as a local infectious disease expert recommended.

This legislation will be re-introduced as amended last Session to include that the removed tick shall be preserved for the parent or guardian of the student to send to the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania for testing, if the parent or guardian so chooses to do so, or; the removed tick will be sent directly by the school to the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania for testing, and upon receiving the results the school shall inform the child's parent or guardian.  The bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate in October of 2021 by a vote of 48-1, but was not considered by the House.

Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases. In 2018, 10,208 Lyme disease cases were reported in Pennsylvania, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate under-reporting by a factor of 10, projecting occurrence rates, more accurately, in the 100,000s.  Approximately one in four cases of Lyme occurred in children, and children ages 5 to 9 are at the greatest risk for contracting Lyme.

Early diagnosis is crucial to preventing the persistent symptoms of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.  Left untreated or improperly treated, Lyme disease can lead to debilitating symptoms, which include fevers, rash, facial paralysis, arthritis, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint aches, severe headaches, irregular heartbeat, memory loss and nerve pain, according to the CDC.  But, if treated within the first 30 days, 10% or less of patients will progress to late state.  If more than 30 days pass without treatment, 60% of patients progress to late stage. By increasing awareness, it is hoped that cases of Lyme can be treated early, before symptoms worsen in severity.

This strategy will be one piece in a comprehensive effort to increase awareness, education and prevention of this disease, which grows more prevalent in Pennsylvania each year.

This bill was Senate Bill 603 of last session, which was cosponsored by Senators Street, Martin, Gordner, Pittman, Costa, Mastriano, Kane, J. Ward and L. Williams.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important piece of legislation. Thank you.

Introduced as SB232