Lyme Lives Here

Doctors and lawmakers alike take a stand against this misunderstood disease permeating Southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Fearn’s diagnosis came in 1994. He went on four weeks of doxycycline, twice the standard first dosage for suspected Lyme. In 1999, he was bitten again on the right side of his abdomen. It, too, diffused a rash (it doesn’t for everyone). “We can’t prove it medically, but anecdotally it seems the more often you’ve been bitten, the sicker you become,” he says.

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives has passed its Lyme bill three times. In June 2010, the Senate moved forward with a major public hearing. Montgomery County Lyme activist Julie Wagner provided expert testimony alongside medical professionals, some of which Fearn lined up. As a result, 12th District Sen. Stewart Greenleaf’s Lyme and
 Related Tick-Borne Disease Education, Prevention and Treatment Act advanced the furthest it ever has. Since then, acting Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila has affirmed that the disease is important to him.

States with kindred laws already on the books include Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California and Connecticut (where the disease was first discovered—and named—in the town of Lyme in 1975). Minnesota and New York have legislation in the works and/or moratoriums on medical board intervention. Maine has an agreement in place, but it’s not law. New Hampshire—like Pennsylvania—has legislation pending.

Chester County’s Sen. Andy Dinniman is a co-sponsor of Greenleaf’s bill. He’s seen an evolving focus on prevention in the county’s health department, an awareness in the local farm bureau, and interest in educational and support groups.

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