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Schumer Says, Tick Season Has Begun & Reports Of Lime Disease Are Growing Rapidly; In Finger Lakes, The Disease-Ridden Tick Population Is Shifting Further Into New Areas; Schumer Bill Addresses Funding Shortfalls & Helps Medical Experts Track & Contain Current Infections Around The Country

Upstate New York Reports More Cases of Lyme Disease Each Year Than Any Other State – In 2012, There Were 5 Cases Of Lyme Disease In Ontario County; In 2013, 11 Cases; In 2014, 18 Cases 

Schumer: It’s Time We Start Fighting Back Against Lyme Disease

Today, at the Victor Municipal Park, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said Lyme-carrying ticks are blanketing the Ontario and Monroe County areas and Lyme disease rates have steadily increased since 2007. Because of this rising trend, Schumer said now is the time for the federal government to get more involved in helping stop the problem of tick-borne illness. Currently, Lyme disease is one of the least understood illnesses, yet it affects more and more residents in Ontario and Monroe Counties each year. With this emerging threat of new tick-borne illnesses, like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, B. miyamotoi disease (BMD) and antibiotic resistant strains of Lyme, Schumer said the need for increased prevention, education, treatment, and research activities is clear and compelling. As a result, Schumer is introducing legislation that would boost the federal government’s ability 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.

“Tick-borne Lyme disease is a growing threat in the Rochester Finger-Lakes area and more must be done – and fast – to increase and improve prevention, treatment, education and treatment. That is why I am pushing legislation to combat the new and growing epidemic by improving and expanding the federal government's to better develop diagnostic, prevention and treatment tools,” said Schumer. “We have to bring Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses out of the weeds to better educate people on how to keep their families' safe. This is especially true in the Rochester Finger Lakes area where it is a new and growing threat. We should be able to enjoy summer without fearing for our health and the safety of our children and ourselves.”

Schumer said that while the start of the summer season typically brings ticks and related illnesses, the increasing rates of Lyme disease in the Ontario and Monroe County areas are nothing short of alarming. In fact, since 2007, the Ontario and Monroe County areas have seen a steady increase in Lyme disease, which is spread to humans primarily by deer tick bites. Lyme disease can cause severe fever, headache, joint pain and stiffness, heart palpitations and swollen lymph nodes. This steady increase has become especially apparent in Ontario County, where totals have increased every year. In 2012, there were five cases of Lyme disease in Ontario County. In 2013, there were 11 cases. And in 2014, there were 18 cases. Overall, since 2012, there have been 34 reported cases in Ontario County and 193 reported cases of Lyme disease in Monroe County. This represents a 161% increase in Ontario County and a 221% increase in Monroe County, compared with previous years. Schumer said these totals underscore the fact that Lyme disease is a new, emergent, and now significant threat for Ontario and Monroe County residents as ticks begin to blanket the area more heavily each year.

Schumer said ticks can be incredibly dangerous, as they often go unseen to the public and carry various illnesses including Lyme disease. With reported cases of Lyme disease on the rise over the past few years, Schumer said there has never been a greater need to increase awareness about the dangers of the disease and enact preventative measures to protect residents. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in August 2013 that over 36,000 Americans had suffered from Lyme disease in 2013. However, the CDC also reported the total number of people diagnosed with the disease annually is roughly ten times higher than the number of cases reported – highlighting the need for increased prevention, education and treatment, and research.

That is why Schumer is pushing for the passage of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act of 2015, which would help combat the new and growing epidemic by improving and expanding the federal government's efforts to contain and prevent the spread of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, in addition to studying the disease to better develop diagnostic, prevention and treatment tools. Specifically, this legislation aims to educate the community in order to increase awareness of tick-borne illnesses and the warning signs for such conditions, as well as educate the health community to aide in accurate diagnosis of these illnesses. The legislation 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. 

In addition, the Lyme and TickBorne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act of 2015 also directs the Secretary of HHS 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 other emerging illnesses like Powassan virus and Babesiosis. This would provide doctors and health care professionals with the tools necessary to better diagnose and treat these illnesses in the Ontario and Monroe County areas. Increasing community knowledge of the symptoms and treatment for tick-borne illnesses will allow both patients and physicians to be more proactive in the course of treatment, and vigilant against potential infections in the event of a tick bite.

Finally, this legislation requires the Secretary of HHS to establish the Tick Borne Diseases Advisory Committee, in order to streamline coordination with other federal agencies and private organizations addressing tickborne illnesses. Also to further improve research and education on the diseases, the legislation requires 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. 

Schumer was joined by Ms. Corky Trombley, who leads the Finger Lakes Lyme Disease Support Group, Members of the Finger Lakes Lyme Disease Support Group and local residents who contracted Lyme, Kate Ott, Health Educator with the Ontario County Department of Public Health, Local Elected Officials.

“As the mother of a son who struggles daily with Lyme disease, I can say first hand that a national focus on Lyme and tickborne diseases is needed and I appreciate Senator Schumer’s support. Lyme-carrying ticks are increasingly moving into our region-so much so that it’s not unusual for me to receive several calls a week now for help and guidance from people who recently contracted Lyme,” said Ms. Corky Trombley, leader of the Finger Lakes Lyme Disease Support Group.

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. While Lyme can be treated effectively with antibiotics if caught early, some patients suffer lingering, debilitating symptoms. That is why Schumer has long fought to raise public awareness about the dangers of Lyme disease and identify new treatment methods. Last year, Schumer called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fix the shortage of doxycycline, an antibiotic frequently used to treat Lyme disease. In 2011 and 2013, he introduced similar legislation to increase federal resources to identify ways to treat and manage recent outbreaks of Lyme disease across Upstate New York.