Senate approves measures to help fight Lyme disease in St. Lawrence County and across New York state
Friday, May 19, 2017 - 2:30 pm

The state Senate has approved several measures to help fight the tick-borne Lyme disease.

And Senator Betty Little, R-Queensbury recently voted in favor of several bills to strengthen New York State’s efforts to combat Lyme and tick-borne diseases. Little is a member of the Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases.

“For many patients dealing with chronic illness as a result of Lyme disease, the cost of treatment can be prohibitive,” Little said. “Insurance coverage, often lacking, would help these people who are already suffering a great deal health-wise avoid suffering financially, too.”

For the last decade, Lyme disease—a bacteria-caused condition that attacks the nervous system, heart, skin and joints—has been creeping northward to our area. Since 2005, the infection rate in St. Lawrence County from Lyme, which is spread through the bite of tiny ticks, has grown 95 times, from virtually zero to more than 100 victims a year. Meanwhile, the statewide rate has increased by about half that amount.

“With warmer weather finally upon us and everyone taking advantage of it, we need to make sure people are taking steps to stay safe from ticks and Lyme disease,” said Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, who serves as a member of the Senate’s Task Force on Lyme And Tick-Borne Diseases. “I’m pleased to partner with schools across St. Lawrence County to connect students and families with vital information that will help safeguard them from Lyme disease.”

A second bill would direct the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop guidelines for best practices in treating residential properties to reduce exposure to ticks.

The third bill would authorize the Department of Health (DOH) to award grants for graduate medical education in Lyme and tick-borne diseases, designate organizations as centers of excellence for Lyme and tick-borne diseases, and designate Lyme and tick-borne-disease resource centers.

“The goal is to encourage more education and training in the medical field. Lyme can be challenging to diagnose, mimicking many other illnesses and, adding to the complexity, are co-infections transmitted by ticks,” said Little.

Little said this year’s tick population is expected to be higher than typical, warranting greater vigilance in avoiding exposure. According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York State has the third highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the entire country.

In addition to advancing the legislation, the task force secured $400,000 in this year’s state budget for research, education, and prevention efforts.

Ritchie is teaming up with school officials in St. Lawrence County to help prevent Lyme disease by sharing information with students and families about the dangers of the tick-borne illness.

As students prepare for summer vacation, that means more time outside—and an increased risk of coming into contact with ticks,” said Ronald P. Burke, Superintendent of Edwards-Knox Central School District. “We would like to thank Senator Ritchie for recognizing how big of an issue Lyme disease has become in St. Lawrence County, and for providing our students and families with this important information, which will help them to stay safe as they enjoy the outdoors in the months to come.”

Through Senator Ritchie’s efforts, more than 11,000 students and families across St. Lawrence County have been provided with brochures that offer guidance on how to avoid ticks, what to do if bitten by one of the insects, information on the symptoms of Lyme disease and more. A copy of the handout can be viewed at www.ritchie.nysenate.gov.