Ticks carrying Lyme disease, like this one, are increasing across Pennsylvania, creating a “serious threat to the health and quality of life of many residents and visitors of Pennsylvania,” according to a task force report.
Sometimes it’s good to be No. 1. This isn’t one of those situations.
Pennsylvania – continuing a long-term trend – once again led the nation in reported cases of Lyme disease in 2014, and not just by a little. There were 7,487 confirmed and probable cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Massachusetts ranked second with 5,304. New York was third with 3,736, New Jersey fourth with 3,286 and Connecticut fifth with 2,360.
Last year marked the fifth in arrow that the state led the nation in Lyme cases. According to state Department of Health officials, it’s on the rise in most counties, and present in all 67.
What to do about it?
That was the question posed to the Task Force on Lyme Disease and Related Tick-Borne Diseases. Formed by legislative mandate, its job was to look at tick-borne diseases in Pennsylvania and come up with recommendations on how to combat it.
The group released its report earlier this fall.
Its 20 members noted that there’s a lot of controversy over Lyme disease, specifically in how to identify it and how to treat it.
“The rapid expansion of (tick-borne diseases) in the United States is further complicated by a lack of consensus among researchers and healthcare professions in many critical areas,” their report reads. “Two organizations have published guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and other (tick-borne diseases): the Infectious Disease Society of America and the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. These organizations vary greatly in their approach to diagnosis and treatment of this disease.”
But the group offered recommendations across three areas: public awareness, disease prevention and environmental surveillance.
On the awareness front, the group’s recommendations include developing a public awareness campaign for providing more and better information to healthcare professionals.
In terms of disease prevention, the group suggested developing protocols for personal protection and property actions at schools, and finding ways to fund them. It recommended doing the same for the sake of visitors and staff at public parks, among other things.
As for environmental surveillance, it provided eight recommendations. They include doing an environmental survey to measure tick prevalence, recruiting a network of veterinarians and doctors who can recognize and report cases of Lyme, funding research and information sharing and creating a public website to distribute tick data at the state and county level.
A full copy of the report can be found here.