FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 12, 2004
Schumer: Dutchess County Is At The Epicenter Of Lyme Disease This Summer – Feds Must Help Combat Problem
Dutchess County is 2nd in the nation for incidence of Lyme disease; More than 1,000 cases have been reported each year in Dutchess County since 1996
Schumer unveils new 3-point plan to help crack down on the illness; Plan includes federal money for research and prevention, targeted education campaign to increase awareness
Dutchess County is at the epicenter of Lyme Disease for the entire country, US Senator Charles E. Schumer warned today during a visit in Hopewell Junction to unveil his new plan to tackle the problem. This summer, thousands of Americans have been infected with Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses that, improperly diagnosed or treated, can cause serious life-long handicaps.
“The last thing parents should have to worry about when their kids play in the backyard is that they’ll contract Lyme Disease from ticks they may not even be able to see on their child’s skin,” Schumer said. “We need to start funding the research and technology needed to better diagnose Lyme Disease and we need to train residents throughout the region to look for the warning signs of this horrible disease.”
Lyme Disease, which is spread through ticks the size of a pin point, is on the rise throughout the United States. The official number of Lyme Disease cases nationwide rose from 17,029 in 2001 to 23,763 in 2002, a jump of 40% according to the CDC. Lyme Disease is found in 49 states, but approximately 95% of reported cases are from Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. The disease is most prevalent in suburban and rural communities in the Northeast such as Hopewell Junction. Dutchess County is 2nd only to Columbia County for incidence of Lyme Disease in the country. More than 1,000 cases have been reported each year in Dutchess County since 1996.
Lyme Disease, though highly curable if it is detected in its early stages, is difficult to diagnose as its symptoms are similar to the common flu. The “bull’s eye” rash that accompanies infection of the disease at the site of the tick bite often goes undetected especially on darker skin tones, and there is not a reliable blood test for the disease. In addition, there is no vaccine, and medical authorities disagree over how to treat the illness, particularly when it persists after short-term antibiotic treatment.
Schumer said that the Lyme Disease epidemic has reached a crisis point in upstate New York and called for federal action to protect New Yorkers from this disease. To increase Lyme Disease awareness and improve research for medical diagnostics and treatment of the disease, Schumer unveiled a new three-point plan: • $10 million in additional funding for Lyme Disease research and prevention: Lyme Disease is the most prevalent vector-borne disease, accounting for 90% of reported cases, yet it receives a small fraction of CDC and NIH spending on those illnesses. Schumer today wrote a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Labor/Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee urging them to increase funding for Lyme Disease prevention and research programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $7 million and at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) by $3 million. The increased funding would be used to fund several initiatives including the development of a test to determine who is infected; research into expanded treatment options; investigation into ways to identify habitats of greatest risk; broader prevention strategies including biological and chemical controls to halt the spread of the tick; and education of the public and physicians, particularly in places where tick-borne diseases are emerging.
Schumer was joined today by Pat Smith, president, Lyme Disease Association, Inc.; Jill Auerbach, chair, Hudson Valley Lyme Disease Association; Sarah Hale-Rude, Lyme Disease victim; Rich Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY; and Peter Idema, Town of East Fishkill Supervisor.