(BOSTON–5/4/2023) Today, the Joint Committee on Public Health held a hearing for Senator Patrick O’Connor’s (R-Weymouth) legislation – S.1442, An Act establishing a special commission to find the best practices to promote education, awareness, and prevention of Lyme disease – that would establish a commission to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent cases of Lyme Disease.
The timing of the bill’s hearing aligns with the beginning of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme Disease most commonly occurs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, and in recent years Lyme disease has been on the rise throughout Massachusetts. These tick-borne illnesses spread through deer ticks that cling to plants near the ground in brushy, wooded, or grassy places and attach themselves to people or animals that brush up against the plant as they are passing.
During the hearing, Dr. Isobel Ronai, a Postdoctoral Fellow and American Australian Association Scholar at Harvard University, presented testimony that underscored the importance of addressing the rising number of Lyme Disease cases and supported the creation of a special commission that would be equipped to address this epidemic.
“Over the past two decades, there has been a tripling of Lyme diseases cases, particularly in the hotspot for tick-associated diseases which is New England,” said Dr. Ronai. “Tick-associated diseases have a huge impact on the state economy through loss of productivity and the cost of healthcare. We tragically have no good data available on the state level…and tick-associated disease education, awareness, and prevention in Massachusetts is desperately needed.”
O’Connor says the continued growth of this problem has prompted the need for legislative action.
“The threat of tick-borne disease is not going away. In fact, Massachusetts has seen one of the fastest growing increases of tick-borne disease cases in the nation in the past thirty years.” said O’Connor. “It is our duty as a legislature to act. This bill would establish a special commission of field experts and legislators charged with leading the way in identifying the best practices for increasing Lyme disease awareness, combatting its harmful spread, and assist those suffering from its long-term effects.”
There are some effective prevention methods to keep in mind when enjoying the spring and summer weather during the next few months. When in a heavily wooded or grassy area, it's incredibly important to wear long light-colored pants tucked into your socks as well as a long sleeve T-shirt. Although this outfit might be a bit uncomfortable in the Massachusetts summer heat, it drastically reduces the chance that a deer tick will make contact with your skin. Additionally, there are many commercially available EPA-registered insect repellents that will add more protection than the long-sleeved outfit alone.
The Joint Committee on Public Health will vote on whether the bill should move forward in the legislative process in the coming months.
Senator Patrick O’Connor represents the First Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Weymouth. Sen. O’Connor and his staff may be reached at the State House at 617-722-1646 or by email at Patrick.O’[email protected].