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02/14/2011 01:50 AM

MASS. Lyme fighters gain political advantage 2.14.

Bettyg
 
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Lyme fighters gain political advantage

By Cynthia Mccormick

cmccormick@capecodonline.com

February 14, 2011

For years, proposed state legislation to combat Lyme disease by establishing a special commission and a medical research center on the tick-borne illness has gone nowhere on Beacon Hill.

But several Cape legislators and advocates for people with Lyme hope that will change now that a powerful off-Cape politician whose own son has the disease is sponsoring "An Act Relative to the Research and Treatment of Lyme."

"I'm convinced Lyme disease is a public health crisis," said state Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, chairman of the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight.

Linsky, who didn't want to go into his son's medical history, said nearly everyone seems to have a friend or relative afflicted by the illness.

"But it's flying under the radar," he said in a phone interview.

The bill he filed late last month, [b]now known as House docket No. 01956, bears similarities to earlier proposals.

Like a bill filed by former state Rep. Jennifer M. Callahan, D-Worcester, in 2007, it would create a Lyme Disease Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester[/b].

And like other earlier proposals backed by Cape legislators, it also would create a special commission to study the incidence and impact of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in the state, including educating the medical community about the latest research.

The difference this time is the stature of the legislator filing the bill.

Linsky "is well-regarded by the leadership," said state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, who signed onto his bill along with representatives Cleon Turner, D-Dennis, and Timothy Madden, D-Nantucket.

The House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight that Linsky chairs has the power of subpoena; under his leadership it recently investigated gun trafficking, the CVS Caremark merger and the MWRA water main break.

Indeed, Linsky already has exercised legislative muscle regarding Lyme. A post audit and oversight committee report on whether the state Department of Public Health and local boards of health are doing all they can to combat tick-borne disease is due out in a couple of weeks, Linsky said.

A unified state effort to combat Lyme, which has sickened thousands of Cape Codders, "is way, way overdue," Turner said.

"I've signed on to Lyme disease legislation every term I've been there."

For years Lyme disease, named after a shore town in Connecticut where it was first noted, was a phenomenon of coastal Massachusetts, especially Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod.

Caused by a bacteria spread by the tiny deer tick, Lyme disease has symptoms including rashes, fevers and stiff neck and swollen glands.

If not treated promptly, sufferers can develop arthritis, neurological problems including meningitis and even heart problems, according to the state Department of Public Health.

In recent years, however, Lyme cases have skyrocketed across the state.

In 2006 there were 2,494 cases of Lyme in Massachusetts, including 250 on the Cape and Islands.

In 2009, the latest year for which the state has figures, the number of statewide cases jumped to 4,028.

The numbers included 255 cases in Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties — an increase of just five cases over 2006.

Norfolk and Plymouth counties were among those that saw big increases, going from a combined 519 to 832 cases.

"Certainly when reported cases started increasing in other areas, e.g., Berkshires, North Shore, representatives from those areas began to hear from their constituents," Brenda Boleyn, chairwoman of the Cape and Islands Lyme Disease Task Force, wrote in an e-mail. "That made a difference."

She said Linsky "has been very candid about the fact that his son is battling Lyme and that that is his motivation. That of course 'hits home,' literally."

Whether Linsky's dedication will translate into legislation remains to be seen, legislators say.

Establishing the special commission on Lyme disease "does not carry a big price tag," Boleyn said, so it may "have some traction."

But creating a research center at UMass Medical School in Worcester with its own dedicated trust fund could be a problem in these tight economic times, Turner said.

Joanne Creel, a Yarmouth resident who has suffered for years with Lyme disease, said so far the main cost of the disease is being carried by patients themselves, who she said are often misdiagnosed, under treated and ignored by the medical establishment.

"It is it underreported? Yes," Creel said. "They don't want to deal with it. It's a political disease."

http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=% 2F20110214%2FNEWS%2F102140304%2F-1%2FNEWSMAP

Copyright © 2011 Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Dow Jones Local Media Group. All Rights Reserved.

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02/14/2011 04:38 AM
shorelinelyme
shorelinelymePosts: 1252
Senior Member

Betty,

Thanks for posting this. My sister-in-law lives in Mass. and I can't tell you how many people she knows are sick with Lyme...I think they might even have CT beat!

This is my prayer- research & a cure...it is long overdue!

Hugs,

JackieSmile

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