Lyme Lives Here
Doctors and lawmakers alike take a stand against this misunderstood disease permeating Southeastern Pennsylvania.
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Stemming the tide of Lyme disease may rest with self-protection and education. That’s the message of educational organizations like the LDA. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 2003, the association speaks at 50 gatherings a year, and it’s been slowly embraced by once-reticent outdoor organizations like summer camps and the Pennsylvania Sportsman Show. The LDA website (lymepa.org) has 500 users a day. Its hotline has drawn nationwide calls. Lyme Disease and Associated Diseases: The Basics, a pamphlet authored by Fearn, circulates 35,000 copies a year.
In May, Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Montgomery County Lyme patient and activist Julia Wagner’s Lyme Action PA (lymeactionpa.com) hosted the Facebook-driven Lyme Youth rally at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg. “We’re hoping to get people mad enough that it forces changes,” says Fearn.
Southeastern Pennsylvania has plenty of Lyme disease’s chief carriers: small- to medium-size mammals, from white-footed mice to deer. Of late, deer herds have become penned-in due to development. At Valley Forge National Historical Park, the deer population has increased eightfold in the past 25 years to about 1,300.
Some blame the deer, contending that if you reduce the herd, you’ll reduce the tick population and the number of new Lyme cases. “There’s a direct correlation,” says Fearn. “Deer are the tick amplifiers. But all that scares people away. If no one goes to the park, the park will go out of business.”