Sunday, July 27, 2014

Baker, Mullery on opposite sides of Lyme task force

June 27. 2014 12:15AM

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• Statewide, the number of cases has ranged between about 3,800 and 5,700 in recent years.

• From 2002 to 2012, Pennsylvania reported a total of 46,178 confirmed cases of Lyme disease.

• Luzerne County cases jumped from 52 in 2012 to 104 in 2013.

Source: Staff research, including state and federal statistics, and information from state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf’s office.


Who: Anyone of any age may come into contact with infected ticks and become infected.

When: Ticks may be active year-round, but officials advise extra vigilance in warmer months, chiefly April through September.

Where: Wooded and bushy areas, as well as areas with high grass and leaf litter are the most common tick habitats.


State Health Department recommendations include:

• Use insect repellent containing low concentrations of DEET on clothing and exposed skin, except for your face. Apply DEET sparingly, and do not use under clothing.

• Avoid tick-infested areas.

• Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be spotted more easily.

• Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants for added protection.

• Walk in the center of trails to avoid overhanging brush.

• Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.

• Place a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.

• Check yourself, family members and pets for ticks after leaving potentially tick infested areas and promptly remove any ticks detected.

Tick removal

The CDC advises:

• Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

• Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

• After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

• Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin.

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State Senator Lisa Baker has plenty of friends and constituents that have been impacted by the threat of Lyme disease.

That was one motivating factor behind her decision to sign on as a sponsor to a bill that will establish a Lyme disease task force among several state agencies.

The task force will include the state Department of Health, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Baker, R-Lehman Township, hopes it will not only raise awareness on the threat of Lyme disease, but lessen the threat as well.

“I think we can begin to really look at how significant this problem is and identify the steps for prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” Baker said. “The number of Lyme disease cases continues to rise and Pennsylvania is near the top of the nation where the disease is prevalent.”

The bill (SB 177) passed the Senate unanimously and received only two negative votes in the House. One of those was cast by state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Nanticoke, who said he is well aware of the problem but doesn’t think money needs to be spent on a study when it is known which antibiotics work to treat Lyme disease.

“This issue really strikes home with me because my daughter recently had a tick bite and was put on antibiotics,” Mullery said. “Days later the tests came back negative.

“I voted against the bill because we know these antibiotics work. Why do we have to do another study when we know what works?”

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