Jun. 21, 2019

By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Pennsylvania has led the nation in confirmed cases of Lyme disease for three straight years. To address this growing concern for Commonwealth families, the Pennsylvania Legislature has been working on a multi-prong approach.

To help combat the disease, we passed a law creating a task force to study Lyme disease and provide recommendations for public education, surveillance and prevention of the disease. The state House also approved legislation that would ensure coverage of available and emerging diagnostic and treatment options for Lyme and related tick-borne diseases. House Bill 629 is now before the Senate for consideration. And we also awarded a $500,000 grant to East Stroudsburg University to allow all Pennsylvania residents to have ticks tested for free by the university. Residents can go to  ticklab.org for all the details.

Although we are making progress on this issue at the state level, the best line of defense against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is still prevention. It is a good idea for everyone to take precautions when heading outdoors to go fishing, hunting, camping or enjoying other activities that take individuals into wooded areas.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health advises residents to follow these tips to avoid tick bites:

• Use repellent with DEET.
• Wear long sleeves and pants.
• Check yourself and pets for ticks.
• Shower after coming indoors.
• Place worn clothes in dryer on high temperature.

To help keep ticks away from your property, homeowners should reduce tick habitats by clearing underbrush and trees, reduce mouse populations, spray the perimeter of their property with Permethrin sprays, keep grass short and use a three-foot perimeter of wood chip edging.

Once Lyme disease is contracted, it can infect several different parts of the body making diagnosis difficult. Symptoms often vary from person to person. However, some typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic circular skin rash called Eythema Migrans.

Most cases of the disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started early enough. However, left untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, resulting in increasingly serious complications and requiring intensive therapy.

I encourage everyone to be safe and take the proper precautions before heading outdoors. For more information on Lyme disease, visit health.pa.gov.