08.08.17

SCHUMER: AS NEW TICK-BORNE DISEASE —POWASSAN — EMERGES & SUMMER TICK SURGE ON STATEN ISLAND UNDERWAY, SCHUMER WILL DOUBLE DOWN ON HIS PUSH TO GET FEDS TO STOP MOVING AT SNAIL’S PACE, AND INSTEAD TO AGGRESSIVELY IMPLEMENT NEW LAW THAT WOULD FAST-TRACK RESEARCH, VACCINES & STRATEGIES TO STAMP OUT DISEASE-CARRYING-TICKS – AND BETTER PROTECT STATEN ISLAND KIDS & FAMILIES

Last Year, Schumer Led Effort To Pass Bipartisan Law—21st Century Care Act—That Included Sweeping Plan To Tackle Lyme Disease & Other Tick-Borne Nightmares

Schumer: With Recent NY Death & Another Confirmed Case of Deadly Powassan Virus, Feds Must Work Faster So Cures Are Delivered & So Public—Especially Kids— Are Better Protected 

Schumer To Feds: Get Serious About Preventing More Lyme/Powassan Disease Exposures

Standing at Cloves Lake Park, one of 14 tick surveillance locations on Staten Island, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to double-down on efforts to fully implement new laws, passed by Congress last year, that will significantly increase research, vaccine development and treatment strategies to help stamp out tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease. Schumer said any delay in federal action will allow newly emerging disease like Powassan, which is even deadlier than Lyme disease, to impact already highly vulnerable areas like Staten Island.

Schumer was joined by Staten Island Borough President James Oddo; Assemblymember Michael Cusick; and Dr. Jordan Glaser, Director of Infectious Diseases at SIUH; as well as several Staten Island residents with Lyme disease.

“The reality is the Feds now have the tools to begin stamping out diseases like Powassan Virus and Lyme disease, but they’re still dragging their feet, even though more and more New Yorkers are being infected with horrible tick-borne diseases,” said Senator Schumer. “The threat of tick-borne diseases is very real on Staten Island so it is imperative that we do all that we can to halt the continued spread every single summer. That’s why I am urging HHS Secretary Tom Price to quickly implement the already-passed legislation within the 21st Century Cures Act, to ensure that we are making a sufficient attempt at ridding ourselves of these chronic diseases. There is no more time to waste, and HHS must step up their game.” 

BP Oddo said, “It seems with each passing week there is another awful story about a Staten Islander impacted by Lyme disease. We proudly call ourselves the ‘Borough of Parks,’ and we encourage Staten Islanders to get out and be active, yet we know the Lyme risk continues to grow. That is why we are thankful that on this issue, like so many other local issues, we have the staunchest of allies in Senator Schumer.”    

“The risk for tick borne diseases has long been a concern for Staten Islanders in the “Borough of Parks” and with more cases of the Powassan virus disease popping up, we need to find means of treating this potentially deadly disease. I support Senator Schumer’s efforts to implement legislation that will quicken the pace of finding a vaccine and treatment for the Powassan virus, as well as more effective means of dealing with Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses,” said Assemblymember Cusick.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks, which can be transmitted by a bite to a human or animal host. If left untreated, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferiwill travel through the bloodstream, manifest itself in body tissues, and cause mild or severe symptoms, depending on the case. Lyme disease begins as a rash at the location of the tick bite, and then spreads to the nervous system and joints. Early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment is crucial, as it is with many other types of disease and cancer. With early diagnosis, Lyme disease is cured almost 100% of the time. The disease is most prevalent on the Upper East Coast, and Midwest, especially in densely wooded areas with an aptitude for humidity.

Lyme disease is extremely prevalent in the 5 boroughs, with 8,000+ cases over the past 15 years. According to the New York City Department of Health, there were 123 Lyme disease infections on Staten Island last year and 121 Lyme disease infections in 2015. According to Staten Island University Hospital, in 2015 there were 8 reported cases in Port Richmond; 22 reported cases in Stapleton-St.George; 22 reported cases in Willowbrook; and 69 reported cases in South Beach- Tottenville.

This past May, two pre-K students at Staten Island’s PS 36 in Annadale were found with ticks embedded on their skin after playing near a grassy area on school property.

According to the New York City Department of Health:

 

Borough

2016 Lyme Disease Infections

2015 Lyme Disease Infections

Staten Island

123

121

Bronx

51

46

Brooklyn

322

333

Manhattan

322

326

Queens

128

114


Another disease, transmitted like Lyme, is called Powassan Virus (POW). After the initial bite, the disease usually takes one week to one month to reveal itself. It cannot be transmitted human to human. People with the disease need to be hospitalized as soon as possible and immediately put on to respiratory support and IV fluids. Minor or massive brain swelling may also occur. No vaccines or specific treatments currently exist for POW, however there are methods for prevention. These include: staying out of wooded or bushy areas that contain high grass, the use of insect repellent/DEET, a bath or shower within 2 hours of being in a wooded area, and full-body tick checks for both yourself and any pet that may have travelled with you.

There have been approximately 75 cases of POW in the last decade, 16 of which were in New York.  According to the New York City Department of Health, tick surveillance in 2016 for the first time included testing ticks for POW and a single positive tick was collected in the Bronx. Earlier this year, a fisherman from Gansevoort tragically died as a result of Powassan. Test results from the hospital came back negative for Lyme but subsequent testing revealed Powassan.

Schumer explained that the passed legislation aims to continue to research methods for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. In addition, the bill establishes a working group to make recommendations on existing programs and research and to prepare a report summarizing these recommendations as well as current federal research efforts related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. Ultimately, the bill aims to research, identify and treat the disease as well as launch a national response to significantly enhance the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) ability to stop the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

Under the bill, HHS must coordinate federal activities related to tick-borne diseases and conduct or support activities related to tick-borne diseases, including:

·         Surveillance,

·         Research on strategies for the control of ticks,

·         Exploring causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tick-borne diseases,

·         Epidemiological research, and

·         Determining the gaps in existing research.

Schumer made this push as the CDC and other tick-borne disease experts predicted that this summer could be one of the worst when it comes to the population of ticks.

Schumer has long pushed for federal funding for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme, which has seen an increase in cases across New York State. In 2015, Schumer pushed for legislation to boost the federal government’s ability to research, identify and treat the disease as well as launch a national response to significantly enhance the HHS’ ability to stop the spread of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Additionally, in 2013, Schumer called on the CDC to immediately allocate resources towards the study, prevention, and treatment of Lyme and the emerging POW virus threat in New York. Last year, Schumer successfully pushed to pass this bill; however, its language has not yet been totally enacted.

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