FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 4, 2011
SCHUMER: AT THE HEIGHT OF TICK SEASON, LYME DISEASE, NEW TICK- BORNE ILLNESS SPREADING IN CENTRAL NEW YORK – SENATOR PUSHES LEGISLATION TO COMBAT GROWING CASES OF EMERGING ILLNESSES
Lyme Disease Has Spread From The Hudson Valley; New Illness Babesiosis Also Showing Up In Madison County & Central NY
Legislation Would Boost Research Of Tick-Borne Illnesses, Increase Education & Awareness, And Better Coordinate Federal Agencies Working Together To Fight The Diseases
Schumer: This Little Pest Can Pose A Big Problem
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his support for legislation to fight back against the growing problem of Lyme disease, as well as the emerging illness known as Babesiosis, in Madison County. Over the past several years, Lyme disease has spread from the Hudson Valley up through Central New York, with vets and doctors seeing an increase in the number of cases. In recent months, new cases of Babesiosis have begun showing up in Central New York, years after they first expanded in the Hudson Valley in a pattern that mimicked the spread of Lyme disease. The disease, which causes fatigue and flu-like symptoms and can be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, can be transmitted by the same tick right alongside Lyme disease. However, the treatment for Lyme disease does not attack Babesiosis, which does not have easily identified symptoms. The Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act would help combat the new and growing epidemic by improving and expanding the federal government’s efforts to contain the spread of these and other tick-borne illnesses. The bill would establish a tick-borne disease advisory committee through the Department of Health and Human Services, expand research into Lyme disease and other illnesses, improve education, and require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to produce a report to educate doctors and other health professionals on the latest research and treatment options for the disease.
“We need to bring Lyme disease and Babesiosis out of the weeds and better educate the public about how to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Schumer. “Lyme disease is a problem we’ve seen for decades, and Babesiosis is a recently growing issue in New York, but we haven’t done nearly enough at the federal level to tackle it. Tick-borne illnesses often go unnoticed for months, yet can be devastating for many victims and their families. The summertime brings about warm weather and school vacation, causing higher rates of infection in Madison County and beyond. The tick is a little pest that can pose a big problem, and this legislation would boost research of Lyme disease and Babesiosis, increase education and awareness, and better coordinate federal agencies to fight these diseases.”
“Lyme Disease spreads to Madison County from the Hudson Valley, and along with it, Babesiosis,” said Madison County Health Department Director Eric Faisst. “This public health issue can become complicated for both patients and physicians because public awareness devoted to the diseases is cyclic. Our health department doesn’t always have an exact number of Babesiosis cases because those with the disease could easily be diagnosed with the flu or a general infection that requires simple antibiotics to treat. Treating Babesiosis with an antibiotic actually cures the disease and this prevents our health department from keeping an accurate number of those infected. The tests performed by a doctor for Lyme disease and Babesiois should occur at the same time, especially as this illness spreads. We strongly urge patients to talk to their doctors about getting both tests if they think there’s a chance they’re infected. We thank the Senator for offering up a plan to combat tick-borne illnesses and hope it creates the public awareness this issue demands.”
Standing at Canastota-Lenox Health Center, and joined by Dr. Dan Vick, Vice President of Medical Affairs of the Health Center, Dr. Brenner from Upstate Medical, and Mr. Faisst, Director of Madison County Department of Health,Schumer announced his support for The Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act, introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). This legislation aims to establish a tick-borne diseases advisory committee, coordinate increased research, development and education around all tick-borne diseases, and establish a reporting system to advise health professionals on treatment options.
First, the legislation would establish a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee within the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services in order to streamline coordination between other federal agencies and private organizations addressing tick-borne illnesses. The Advisory Committee would be comprised of “stakeholder constituencies,” which would include doctors and researchers. Second, the legislation directs the Secretary of HHS, in coordination with the Advisory Committee, to develop more accurate and time-sensitive diagnostic tools to strengthen surveillance and reporting of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, which would help determine prevalence of various illnesses. This provision would be particularly helpful in developing strategies to combat the spread of emerging illnesses like Babesiosis.
Third, The Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act would increase public education through the Community Based Education Programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and create a physician-education program that includes the full spectrum of scientific research related to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Finally, the legislationrequires the Secretary of HHS to publish a report at the end of each advisory term evaluating published guidelines and current research available on Lyme disease, in order to best educate health professionals on the latest research and diversity of treatment options. It further requires the Secretary of HHS to submit to Congress a report on the activities carried out under this act including a copy of the most recent annual report issued by the Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee.
Babesiosis is a parasitic disease that is spread by the bite of certain types of ticks, which carry microscopic parasites that can infect and destroy red blood cells in humans. Many people who are infected by Babesiosis do not show any symptoms, and doctors treating patients with tick bites do not commonly test for the illness. While the infection can be a severe, life-threatening disease, especially in people with other illnesses and the elderly, most people with normal immune systems respond well to treatment. Ticks carrying the most common type of Babesiosis, Babesia microti, are found most often in the Northeast, New York, New Jersey and parts of the upper Midwest. Transmission usually peaks during warm months.
Lyme disease is the most common of all the diseases in the United States transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, with approximately 20,000 cases reported each year. It most commonly occurs in the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and North-Central states. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine and Wisconsin had the most cases.
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. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics when detected early, however, in the event the antibiotics do not work there is no real agreement among medical authorities and institutions over how the illness should be treated.
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