One of Warren County’s state senators wants the state to do more to protect residents from Lyme disease.
Senator Michele Brooks, R-Crawford/Erie/Mercer/Warren, recently introduced Senate Bill 1188 to provide better access to testing and treatment for Lyme disease and related tick-borne illnesses and to mandate health care policies to provide coverage.
“It has come to my attention that the most comprehensive testing for Lyme disease is not always done in Pennsylvania, or not always covered by health insurers,” Brooks wrote in his legislative memorandum.
“To rectify this, I will introduce legislation to improve testing and insurance coverage for Lyme disease testing.”
She said that Pennsylvania leads the nation in cases of Lyme disease. In 2018, 10,208 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Pennsylvania, but he said the Centers for Disease Control estimates underreporting by a factor of 10, projecting rates of occurrence, more accurately, in the hundreds of thousands. . From 2000 through 2018, there were 106,718 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania, though CDC officials say the true number of Lyme disease cases may be much higher, possibly more than a million. She said that one in four cases occurs in children with children between the ages of 5 and 9 most at risk.
Brooks proposes requiring treating physicians to consult and report to a state database when making a clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease to ensure all cases are counted. He is also proposing an annual public education campaign for health professionals by the state Department of Health and the distribution of literature on Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases.
Senate Bill 1188 would also require health insurance policies and government programs to include diagnostic tests for Lyme disease or tick-borne diseases if a doctor orders the tests, as well as medications to treat Lyme disease.
“Early diagnosis is crucial to prevent persistent symptoms of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases,” Brooks wrote. “If left untreated or inadequately treated, Lyme disease can cause debilitating symptoms, including fever, rash, facial paralysis, arthritis, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, severe headaches, irregular heartbeat, memory loss and nerve pain. But, if treated within the first 30 days, 10% or less of patients will progress to a late stage. If more than 30 days go without treatment, 60% of patients progress to a late stage. By improving testing, it is hoped that Lyme cases can be treated early, before symptoms worsen in severity. This disease is curable, and if we are more aggressive in diagnosing Lyme sooner through more thorough and extensive testing, it will give people the ability to overcome this disease and not be debilitated for the rest of their lives. This will be a more proactive approach to helping people fight this disease and ultimately less costly for the long-term health care system.”