With such a mild winter and an early spring, ticks are expected to be in increased population this summer. Sen. Charles Schumer is calling upon legislation for more research regarding Lyme disease and ticks, the "small but very harmful" pest.
Schumer is one of 10 sponsors for the "Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act." The bi-partisan legislation is calling for more education for residents as well as doctors and nurses.
"We have one the highest concentrations of ticks and Lyme disease in the country," Schumer said during a conference call. "We've seen tick-borne illnesses spiking in recent years so we need extra action."
According to Schumer, 20,000 Americans are affected by Lyme disease each year. In the past decade, there have been 150 cases of tick-borne illnesses in Western New York. The disease is curable if found within the first 14 days and can be treated with medicine. If not found within this time, the disease is much harder to treat. Officials are expecting this year to be bad for ticks due to the mild winter.
"The National Institute of Health and experts of Cornell have warned that this year is going to be particularly bad ... because we've had a mild winter and many more ticks have survived," Schumer said.
Since spring started earlier, tick-borne illnesses have been showing up earlier. The act has a three pronged approach including individual education, doctor education and more research on the disease.
Lyme disease cases from 2002-2011
Cattaraugus County - 22
Chautauqua County - 35
Erie County - 79
"If moms know when they put their kids in the backyard to inspect the kids when they come back. To look at their arms and legs, to know what the tick is and to know what the bite is like. It is a specific bite," Schumer said.
The second approach is to education doctors, nurses and those of medical centers about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
"When tick bite victims head to community health centers, they're tested right away for the types of tick-borne illnesses and treated in the way that will get the best results," Schumer said. "More and more doctors know about Lyme disease but they don't know enough about the other tick-borne illnesses that can be equally serious like Babesiosis and others."
The third component to the act is more research including a test to identify Lyme disease. Schumer also wants research on how the disease is spread as well as better medications to treat Lyme disease.
"It's much more prevalent in (the east) than it would be in Western New York but it is spreading west. That's one of the reasons we need to know the patterns of spreading so we can break those," Schumer said.
According to Schumer, the bill will be funded by the health appropriations. Schumer is optimistic this bill will move through the Senate fairly quickly due to the many sponsors of the bill. The bill will be moved through as part of a health appropriations bill.
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