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Hope for Lyme disease legislation

tick_pic.jpg

I'm going to Maryland to visit my parents next week, so I'm sure to be spending many pleasant hours in their backyard, which is a lush, green wonderland this time of year. Soon I'll be watering the tomatoes, deadheading marigolds and relaxing with Dad and a drink on the patio. But just now I'm thinking about the bugs who'll be spending time with us out there in the D.C. suburbs, especially the ticks. I'm worried my parents, who love gardening, will get Lyme disease from them.

A recent article in the Washington Post notes cases in the D.C. area are on an upswing. In Montgomery County, where my parents live, cases have grown fivefold since 2004, to 216. While that's a big increase, it's not such a large total for a county of more than 950,000 people. So should I just chill?

I would, if I were convinced that those numbers were accurate. But a controversy over the number of Lyme cases has raged for years, with some doctors and scientists claiming that the disease is underdiagnosed and underreported.

There's some hopeful news, though.

On Thursday, a U.S. Senate panel approved legislation proposed by Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to help identify and treat Lyme disease. The measure was included in the annual funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. And on July 24, the House of Representatives included a similar proposal in its HHS appropriations bill.

The next step is a vote by the Senate, expected very soon.

Here's
more information on the legislation from the Lyme Disease Association.

Photo by Dendroica cerulea

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