The Associated Press

Report: Mass. Must Step Up Lyme Disease Prevention

BOSTON — A new report (PDF) is urging Massachusetts officials to take more drastic steps to combat Lyme disease, from launching aggressive public education campaigns to exploring expanded crossbow hunting to cut down on the number of deer that may be carrying ticks.

The report released Thursday by a special legislative commission also said the state needs to enhance its Lyme disease surveillance methods to get a better idea of the scope of the ailment.

Up to 14,000 reports of Lyme disease are confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health each year although officials say the real numbers may be 10 times that due to underreporting.

The disease is spread to humans from tick bites.

State Rep. David Linsky, chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, said the disease is a public health epidemic that no longer is limited to certain areas of the state such as Cape Cod.

“We need to let people know how prevalent Lyme disease is in Massachusetts,” said Linsky, D-Natick, during a press conference to release the report. “If you ask friends and ask your neighbors, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by this.”

The report said the state currently fails to capture many cases of Lyme disease either because lab testing isn’t routinely reported or testing isn’t performed at the appropriate stage of the disease.

Creating stronger reporting procedures would help public health officials determine the extent of the disease, who might be at the most risk, and whether the ticks that carry the disease are concentrated in specific geographic areas.

The report also said doctors need to be kept up to date about the wide spectrum of the disease, including relapsing or recurring symptoms. School nurses also could help track the disease by passing along information about students with symptoms to state health officials.

The disease has been spreading across the state as the tick-carrying deer population explodes and housing developments encroach on natural habitats. The disease causes flu-like symptoms and can be treated by antibiotics.

The commission also urges mandatory Lyme disease insurance coverage be adopted in the state.

The report also recommends:

  • requiring the Pesticide Bureau to add tick-relevant training in pesticide licensing exams
  • studying the costs and benefits of expanded crossbow hunting and having the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife look into allowing 150-foot archery safety zones around homes to better manage deer populations
  • determining how much it would cost to expand mosquito-spraying to cover ticks
  • ramping up public information campaigns

“Educating the public for prevention is the key aspect in helping to prevent transmission and therefor avoiding many of the difficulties that can arise for patients following infection,” the report said.

Linsky said he also has asked the Department of Public Health how much it would cost to strengthen efforts to fight Lyme disease and said money should be added to the state budget to pay for those efforts.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • KATHY

    FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM THIS INSIDIOUS DISEASE AND ITS CO-INFECTIONS THE TIME HAS FINALLY COME FOR SERIOUS STUDY.

  • gorilla monsoon

    Lyme Disease is a possibly dangerous disease and should be eliminated even if it requires insecticides.

  • KATHY

    I CAN NOT BELIEVE THERE ARE NOT MORE “COMMENTS” ON THIS….IF ONLY FOLKS KNEW WHAT PAIN MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY LYME DISEASE PRESENTS THERE WOULD BE MORE OUTRAGE .

  • Alex Davis

    The tragedy is that the Lyme epidemic is unnecessary. The wise residents of Monhegan Island ME and Mumford Cove CT ended their Lyme epidemics by removing the deer. The deer epidemic caused the Lyme epidemic. In 1930 there were 300,000 deer in the US. Today there are 30 million. Deer are the key to the reproductive success of the deer tick which carries not just Lyme disease but also several other diseases, including babesiosis and anaplasmosis both of which can be fatal. The adult egg-laying deer tick requires a sizeable mammal to feed on; 95% feed on deer. It cannot feed on a mouse, for instance. Estimates are that ticks from just one deer can produce up to a million tick eggs per season. These can be considered like dirty needles spread around our parks and yards, where herds of deer roam freely. Lyme disease is under-reported and under-diagnosed because most people never see the poppy-seed-size tick which infects them. The rash when present is also often small and easily missed. Lyme disease can cause crippling arthritis and brain damage; the groups are highest risk is the children. We should not be punished for wanting to enjoy nature, which has become a deadly menace.

  • public_servant_watch

    Boston Medical Center on the very day this report was released engaged in PURPOSEFUL DIAGNOSIS FAILURE and REFUSAL TO TREAT. They also turned this patient away for his follow up exam with a probable Lyme pericarditis in 2010 and now with profound psychiatric symptoms that responded to antibiotics but re-emerged because of inadequate therapy they dumped the patient.

  • KATHY

    I AM NOT SURPRISED BY THIS ….UNTIL THE “RIGHT” PERSON WITH INFLUENCE SUFFERS FROM LYME DISEASE AND ITS CO-INFECTIONS
    THIS TYPE OF REACTION FROM THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY WILL CONTINUE.

  • http://twitter.com/ThinkPureMA Brian & Trevor

    Great article- happy to see more people discussing Lyme disease and tick prevention. We have witnessed the tick populations increasing each season, so community awareness is so important. We hope that the government does not solely recommend public pesticide solutions as they do currently with mosquitoes which may be adding just another health concern to the public. Hopefully the Dept of Public Health will add training with non-toxic solutions that are both safe and effective.

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