Working to Lick Lyme and Other Tick-borne Diseases

Legislation Waits to be Signed

Critical legislation that recently passed both houses of  the New York State Legislature to protect people struggling with chronic Lyme and the doctors that treat them (A.7558-A/S.7854) is an important step in the multi-faceted battle against tick-borne diseases that has reached crisis proportion here in the Hudson Valley. I am proud to be the prime sponsor of the Assembly bill that passed our house unanimously and I hope that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign the bill very soon, to bring relief to our suffering neighbors, family members and friends, and their doctors. Please reach out and encourage him to make this bill law!

The Hudson Valley has become the epicenter of the Lyme disease epidemic in the Northeastern United States. We all know people who have had Lyme or are still struggling with debilitating symptoms.  However, the practice of medicine has not kept pace with the research advances on the biological agents responsible for the disease symptom. This legislation would allow doctors, without risk of censure,  the discretion to prescribe vital antibiotics for a period of time beyond their traditional use, if and when they determine that such care is in the best interest of their patients.

Patients with Lyme disease must have the same rights as those with any other diseases: the right to be seen and treated by the practitioner of their choice, to be informed that there are differing professional judgments about the appropriate care for Lyme disease, and to participate in the choice of treatment as it pertains to their circumstance and preference. The rights of the patient hinge upon the doctor’s ability to act in their patient’s best interest without fear of reprisal from the professional discipline system when more than one set of guidelines exists.

“We are grateful to the NYS Assembly and Senate for passing this bill, which will provide patients and physicians relief.   While in the face of unsettled science, it is unconscionable that unlike other illness, so many sick Lyme disease patients have suffered due to lack of individualized treatment,” said Jill Auerbach, Chairwoman of the Hudson Valley Lyme Disease Association. “The Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) overstepped its bounds by harassment of the dedicated physicians who compassionately treated these most complicated discarded patients, who were left by others to suffer. This should relieve fears that have understandably caused other physicians reluctance in treating as they believe is correct when patients are still ill.”

“I applaud the hard work of the NY State Assembly and Senate on passing a Lyme bill that protects patients and gives physicians the right to diagnose and treat patients according to their best medical judgment,” said Dr. Richard Horowitz, author of Why Can’t I Get Better?: Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease. “Lyme disease is the number one vector-borne epidemic spreading worldwide, and is endemic in NY State. The passage of this bill will ensure better and more appropriate access to health care for those who are chronically afflicted with Lyme and associated tick-borne diseases.”

Know the enemy

Ultimately the goal here is to prevent illness and the enemy is the tick. In this season when we all want to be outside — after all, this is the beautiful Hudson Valley where hiking, kayaking, riding, gardening, farm visits, outdoor concerts and barbecues are our summer pleasures — prevention is the key. On your way out the door, remember these tips.

  • Ticks do not jump or fly.
  • They crawl up brush or grass up to about three feet high.
  • They wait to nab any animal that passes by.
  • Ticks die if their bodies dry out.

What you can do

  • Avoid brush and tall grass
  • Practice effective protection: shoes, socks and pants tucked into socks to keep ticks out; light colors help you see ticks.
  • Do frequent tick checks: Removing ticks before 24 hours is the best chance to prevent pathogens from infecting your body.
  • Since ticks die if they dry out, throw clothes directly into the dryer and dry at HOT for 20 minutes. Then shower thoroughly to wash any that may be crawling on you.
  • Learn how to remove ticks: A common mistake is using a burning match or cigarette. This was used with American dog ticks, but some ticks are too small and secrete a glue that helps them attach to your skin. Pointy tick removal tweezers are fool proof and won’t risk burning your skin for no reason. Always disinfect the bite area before and after removing the tick.
  • Work with your neighbors to protect each other.  Everyone should keep grass short and clear leaf litter. Ticks, and their carriers, don’t recognize property lines.
  • Research tick repellents to find what you are comfortable with. Products such as Permethrin, for example, can be sprayed on clothing and socks and lasts through washes. As always, please be sure to read all instructions.
  • To learn more check out these websites

About Diner Dialogues

Didi Barrett was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012. Her district, the 106th AD, covers some of the most beautiful parts of Columbia and Dutchess Counties. She has deep roots in the Hudson Valley and came to elected office after a career as a community activist, writer and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations. Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, cultural and historic resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is also a great fan of the iconic diners that dot the region. As a member of the Assembly she serves on the Committees on Aging; Agriculture; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development and Veterans Affairs.
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