Stirpe: Risk of Lyme disease rises with warmer temperatures

Al Stirpe

Stirpe: Risk of Lyme disease rises with warmer temperatures

Summer is only a few weeks away, and these warm months are a great time to take advantage of the beautiful outdoors in Central New York; however, as we head outside, it’s important to remember grassy and wooded areas often bring the dangers of ticks. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are no joke, but by taking proactive measures, you can reduce the threat of tick exposure.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick. Untreated, the bacterium travels via the bloodstream and causes symptoms such as fatigue, fever and chills, and often leads to a large “bull’s-eye” rash surrounding the site of the tick bite.[1] If you notice any of these symptoms between one to two weeks of being bitten, be sure to contact a doctor.

Since the first reported case in 1986, over 95,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in New York, which currently ranks third in number of confirmed cases in the United States.[2] There has been a recent spike of cases in counties across the state, including many here in Central New York.[3]

To help more of our families stay healthy, I’ve supported several legislative measures to proactively combat Lyme disease. I helped pass laws to ensure that doctors pursuing safe and effective treatment options can do so without fear of professional censure from members of the medical community who fail to recognize Lyme as a chronic condition (Ch. 532 of 2014, Ch. 11 of 2015). I also helped include Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in health education and outreach programs, and passed a law to develop instructional materials for schools and libraries to further raise awareness (Ch. 167 of 2016, Ch. 109 of 2016). I’ve also pushed for legislation to require the state Department of Environmental Conservation to establish recommendations for best practices for residential properties to reduce exposure to ticks, as well as direct the state Department of Finance to study insurance coverage for treating Lyme disease (A.2809-A, A.4863-A). And I’m co-sponsoring a bill to require state parks to install signs warning visitors of the dangers related to ticks, including at trail entryways and campgrounds (A.8829).

The first course of defense is prevention – there are several steps you can take at home to protect yourself and your family against ticks. Remember to keep lawns mowed and excess shrubbery to a minimum, as these make for perfect homes for deer ticks in the warmer seasons. When sending kids out to play, doing outdoor chores or working on home improvement projects outside, make sure to avoid heavily wooded areas and those that are shady, moist and low to the ground. If you are venturing onto trails or into fields, I encourage you to wear light colors and long pants to better detect ticks.

Always remember to check yourself, family members and pets for crawling or attached ticks once you return indoors. If you do notice a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers or a designated deer tick tool to remove it from the skin with an upward motion, and clean the bite site and your hands with rubbing alcohol and antibacterial cream. While not 100 percent effective, these measures minimize the dangers of tick-borne illnesses.

As always, I am here to help. If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 315-452-1115 or at StirpeA@nyassembly.gov.

[1]health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme

[2]nysac.org/files/NYSAC%20Lyme%20disease%20in%20New%20York%20State%20White%20Paper-updated.pdf

[3]syracuse.com/weather/index.ssf/2016/03/how_many_cases_of_lyme_disease_where_you_live_search_our_ny_database_by_county.html

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