Assemblymember Barrett Makes Strides to Combat Lyme Disease

July 3, 2018

As New York enters the height of tick season, and as a new and rare tick-borne disease is emerging in the region, Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D - Columbia, Dutchess)announced the passage of two critical pieces of legislation that aim to prevent the spread of Lyme disease and related infections through tick warning signs at state parks and by the creation of a new website with tips for homeowners.

“We know education, awareness and prevention are the best ways to fight against Lyme and the growing number of tick-borne diseases,” said Assemblymember Barrett. “I am proud to have passed legislation that will alert those who visit our state parks and campgrounds about the prevalence of ticks and advise how to prevent tick-borne diseases, as well as provide a new resource to homeowners seeking help with tick management strategies.”

The Assembly and Senate both passed Barrett’s legislation (A.8829/S.7242) to require the installation of tick warning signs at over 200 state-managed parks and campgrounds. These signs will remind visitors of the appropriate preventative measures that should be taken to avoid tick bites when enjoying outdoor recreation. Additionally, the Assembly passed her bill to provide homeowners with an online resource for the best residential tick management practices (A.2809-A).

Barrett’s work in Albany is part of a multi-faceted approach that includes both legislation and efforts to engage the public through social media and educational programming. Her recently launched #GetTickedOff campaign is an advocacy and outreach effort that includes public forums that feature local experts in the Lyme community. At a June forum co-hosted by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and held at the Institute in Dutchess County, over 175 people attended and learned about the ecology of ticks, as well as the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of TBDs. Featured speakers included: Senior Disease Ecologist at the Cary Institute, Dr. Richard Ostfeld; Public Health Advisor for Dutchess County Department of Health, Dr. Alison Kaufman; and Lyme-literate physician, Dr. Kenneth Liegner.

Dr. Kaufman provided the audience with an update on tick surveillance, diseases, and other ongoing efforts at the county level. Dr. Liegner discussed the controversy surrounding diagnosis and treatment within the medical community as well as his work combating TBDs. Dr. Ostfeld provided a synopsis and update of the Tick Project - a five year study which began in 2016 and is being conducted by Bard College and the Cary Institute to better understand residential tick mitigation methods. More information about the study can be found at https://www.tickproject.org

Given the statewide increase in TBD infection rates, New Yorkers must be vigilant and take greater precautions to avoid tick bites throughout most of the year, remembering that ticks can be active anytime temperatures are above freezing. Common areas where ticks are found include leaf piles, woodland edges, tall grasses and other areas that may be suitable for small rodents. When outside, individuals should wear long sleeve shirts, light-colored clothing, tuck their pants into socks, and use repellents such as DEET or permethrin. Individuals should also routinely check themselves, family members and any pets for ticks.

Assemblymember Barrett continues to advocate for better education, more robust health insurance coverage for patients suffering from chronic Lyme, and environmental remedies. To learn more and get involved, you can like, follow, and share the #GetTickedOff Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GetTickedOff/.