New York State Senator Pete Harckham has announced that a bill he introduced to help track the prevalence and spread of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in New York State, has been approved by the Senate. After it is approved in the Assembly, the bill will await signing by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
Harckham’s bill (S.677A) requires coroners, pathologists and medical examiners to report promptly to the local or superintending health department whether a deceased person at the time of death was afflicted with Lyme or any other tick-borne disease.
“This legislation will provide important data for medical researchers and public health officials as they battle Lyme disease and other illnesses transmitted by tick bites,” said Harckham. “These illnesses can have devastating effects on an individual’s health, so it makes sense to understand just how commonplace the infections may be.”
New York State Assemblymember Didi Barrett is the lead sponsor of the Lyme disease tracking bill in the Assembly.
In August 2017, the State Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, in conjunction with the Senate Committee on Health, conducted a public hearing regarding the health threats posed by Lyme and tick-borne diseases in New York State. At the time, there had been several infections and deaths in New York of Powassan virus, another tick-borne malady. It was remarked at the public hearing that current statistics on Lyme and tick-borne diseases may be undercounted because these infections had exacerbated pre-existing conditions (or engendered another illness altogether) but were not listed as the precipitating cause of death.
As a result, it is important that in cases where Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses may underlie the primary cause of death that they are reported as infections to the health authorities for appropriate surveillance and statistical accounting. Around 300,000 people in the U.S. contract Lyme disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Washington Post reported last year that over 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in an area affected by tick-borne illnesses.
To see a short video of Sen. Harckham talking about the treatment equity bill on the Senate floor today, click here.
State Senator Harckham represents New York's 40th District, which includes the towns of Beekman, Pawling and the village of Pawling in Dutchess County; the towns of Carmel, Patterson and Southeast, and the village of Brewster in Putnam County; and the city of Peekskill, the towns of Cortlandt, Lewisboro, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers and Yorktown, the town/village of Mount Kisco, and the villages of Briarcliff Manor, Buchanan, Croton-on-Hudson, Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.