Summer fun can mean increased awareness of Lyme disease

Summertime fun generally means enjoying the outdoors, relaxing, gathering with friends and families for picnics, reunions and other recreational activities.


With these outdoor activities, though, comes the increased threat of Lyme disease that remains a chief concern among Pennsylvanians.


Lyme disease, one of the most commonly reported tick-borne illnesses in the United States, affects about 329,000 people each year.


Ticks are found everywhere in the commonwealth. We have warning signs posted at all 21 state parks and 20 forest district offices across the state.


Lyme disease is an infection caused by several strains of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. These ticks can also transmit other diseases and infect pets and livestock.


Pennsylvania is greatly impacted by this condition. Lyme disease in our state increased by nearly 50% between 2013 and 2017, and we now lead the country in Lyme disease cases. There were 11,900 confirmed cases in the state in 2017, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of the disease caused by mosquitoes, ticks and fleas have tripled in the United States since 2004. The CDC reports that 95% of cases occur within 14 states in the northeast, including Pennsylvania.


While early-stage Lyme disease is more successfully treated, undiagnosed or untreated Lyme disease can cause long-term joint inflammation, nerve pain and heart palpitations, among other complications.


I have introduced legislation urging the Food and Drug Administration to promptly consider candidates for Lyme disease vaccinations currently seeking approval under the drug approval process.


Although a vaccine was previously available to the public, it was taken off the market because of declining sales and fears of potential side effects.


To assess the risk of tick-borne illness across the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is conducting a five-year environmental surveillance of ticks in all 67 counties. This survey is part of the Pennsylvania Lyme Disease Task Force. The recommendations are intended to combat the growing incidence of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.


Because ticks can be found anywhere in Pennsylvania, outdoor enthusiasts must be prepared and proactive when they enter a state park or forestlands.


The state endured a rainy spring which allowed ticks to thrive in favorable humidity. So please remain diligent in checking yourself, your children and your pets for ticks.


Your attentiveness might very well prevent unnecessary pain and discomfort associated with Lyme disease.


I hope you find this topic as important as I do. As always, please contact my office 570-342-4348 if you have any questions or comments on this bill, or on any state-related matter. Hearing what issues and causes are most important to you helps me develop and fine tune my policy standpoints.