As tick-borne illnesses like Lyme Disease flourish, governments across the country and at every level are developing a response to protect the public.
A recent Route Fifty article details various federal, state, and local efforts to contain several tick-related threats to public health. On the federal level, Congress enacted the Kay Hagan Tick Act, requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national strategy to address vector-borne diseases, including tick-borne illnesses. The Act includes an annual appropriation of $20 million from fiscal years 2021 through 2025 to, in part, help state and local health departments in areas at high risk of vector-borne diseases increase their capacity to identify, report, prevent, and respond to such diseases and related outbreaks.
Across the country, Route Fifty notes state governments are focusing on education and outreach:
Education is also a cornerstone of Virginia’s approach. The legislature approved a measure this year that requires the commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation to develop and post signs in state parks in regions with high rates of Lyme disease explaining how a visitor can prevent tick bites, how to identify the illness and where to seek treatment. The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in April, also requires schools officials and local health departments to develop instructional materials for an education and awareness program to protect children from Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.
Wisconsin adopted a bill similar to Virginia’s, also requiring “signs at state parks where Lyme disease is prevalent.” Moreover, Pennsylvania recently considered two laws: one creating greater reporting requirements for tick-borne illnesses and another requiring health insurers to cover tick-borne illness testing and treatment.
In the Maryland General Assembly, legislators recently introduced several tick-borne disease-related bills, including 2022’s House Bill 1244 – Health Insurance – Lyme Disease and Related Tick–Borne Illnesses – Long–Term Antibiotic Treatment. The bill, much like Pennsylvania’s proposed law, would have barred health insurers from denying coverage of long-term antibiotic treatment for tick-borne illnesses including, but not limited to, Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme Disease), Bartonellosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Piroplasmosis.
Additional information regarding tick-borne diseases, including potential symptoms and how to identify a tick, can be found on the Maryland Department of Health’s website.