Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks, which can be transmitted by a bite to a human or animal host. Lyme disease begins as a rash at the location of the tick bite, and then spreads to the nervous system and joints. Early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment is crucial, as almost 100% of cases with early diagnosis are cured.
Another disease, transmitted like Lyme, is called Powassan Virus (POW). After the initial bite, the disease usually takes one week to one month to reveal itself. It cannot be transmitted human to human. People with the disease need to be hospitalized as soon as possible and immediately put on to respiratory support and IV fluids. Minor or massive brain swelling may also occur.
Lyme disease is extremely prevalent in the 5 boroughs, with 8,000+ cases over the past 15 years. According to the New York City Department of Health, there were 123 Lyme disease infections on Staten Island last year and 121 Lyme disease infections in 2015. According to Staten Island University Hospital, in 2015 there were 8 reported cases in Port Richmond; 22 reported cases in Stapleton-St.George; 22 reported cases in Willowbrook; and 69 reported cases in South Beach- Tottenville.
Schumer urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to double-down on efforts to fully implement laws passed by Congress last year that will significantly increase research, vaccine development, and treatment strategies to help stamp out tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease.
BP Oddo said, “It seems with each passing week there is another awful story about a Staten Islander impacted by Lyme disease. We proudly call ourselves the ‘Borough of Parks,’ and we encourage Staten Islanders to get out and be active, yet we know the Lyme risk continues to grow. That is why we are thankful that on this issue, like so many other local issues, we have the staunchest of allies in Senator Schumer.”
“The reality is the Feds now have the tools to begin stamping out diseases like Powassan Virus and Lyme disease, but they’re still dragging their feet, even though more and more New Yorkers are being infected with horrible tick-borne diseases,” said Senator Schumer. “The threat of tick-borne diseases is very real on Staten Island so it is imperative that we do all that we can to halt the continued spread every single summer. That’s why I am urging HHS Secretary Tom Price to quickly implement the already-passed legislation within the 21st Century Cures Act, to ensure that we are making a sufficient attempt at ridding ourselves of these chronic diseases. There is no more time to waste, and HHS must step up their game.”
There are currently no vaccines or specific treatments for POW. However, there are methods for prevention of tick bites, which also help prevent Lyme disease. These include: staying out of wooded or bushy areas that contain high grass, the use of insect repellent/DEET, a bath or shower within 2 hours of being in a wooded area, and full-body tick checks for both yourself and any pet that may have travelled with you.