HARRISBURG (June 23, 2022) – Responding to Pennsylvania’s ranking as the state with the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the nation, Sen. Michele Brooks applauded the Senate’s passage of her legislation to help control the tick population, provide coverage for doctor-recommended Lyme disease treatment, and spread education and awareness of tickborne diseases.
“Senate Bill 1188 seeks to combat the long-term effects of Lyme and other tickborne diseases by promoting education and awareness among health care professionals, providing coverage for diagnostic testing and treatment, and improving public awareness about tick bite prevention practices that can reduce the incidence and prevalence of ticks in this Commonwealth,” Brooks said.
Additionally, this legislation requires the Department of Health to work with the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg University to develop an electronic database for use by the Lab, the department, and health care professionals. The database would include nonidentifiable patient information, including tick testing information, results, and zip code and county location of ticks tested at the Tick Lab; diagnostic testing information and results; and the surveillance criteria applied to determine the confirmed or suspected patient diagnosis from the attending health care professional.
In 2019, there were 6,763 confirmed and 2,235 probable Lyme disease cases reported in this Commonwealth, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is an incidence rate of 52.8 in 2019 and 62.3 over three years. From 2000 to 2021, more than 110,000 Lyme disease cases have been confirmed in this Commonwealth, but since the CDC’s number only represents confirmed cases, the actual number of Lyme disease cases may be far higher. These numbers continue to increase, and Pennsylvania is categorized as a “high incidence” area.
“This is an epidemic that impacts all corners of the state, not only rural Pennsylvania, but urban and suburban counties as well,” Brooks said.
For example, in 2019, the counties in Pennsylvania with the largest number of cases, as reported by the state Department of Health, include Chester, Westmoreland, Butler, Bucks, and Montgomery counties.
“We have spent millions of taxpayer funds on the prevention of Lyme disease and other related illnesses through the Department of Health,” Brooks said. “Telling people to wear socks and white clothing in the woods is not enough. It’s time we do more. We need to support tick testing, research, and most of all, the treatments needed to help people who are suffering.”
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