According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), five counties in the 9th Congressional District, represented by Congressman Bill Keating, have the highest rates of Lyme disease in the commonwealth — Nantucket is first, Dukes County is second, followed by Plymouth, Bristol, and Barnstable counties.
Last week, Rep. Keating authored the Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act, which will direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to publish two sets of materials specific to Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses. The first will update prevention and treatment procedures for both healthcare providers and the public. The second includes training materials for healthcare providers. The Tick-Borne Disease Prevention Act would ensure the CDC publishes guidelines that help Americans understand the risks, know which questions to ask, and ensure they spot tick-borne disease symptoms as quickly as possible.
According to the CDC, nearly 20 percent of people surveyed in areas with high incidence rates of Lyme disease — such as Martha’s Vineyard — were unaware that the disease was even a risk. In a separate study, half of those surveyed reported they did not regularly act to protect themselves against tick bites during the warmer months.
“Residents of Southeastern Massachusetts — and all throughout the Northeast — are keenly aware of how prevalent ticks are, and how dangerous a tick bite can be,” Rep. Keating said in a press release. “With potential diagnoses 10 times higher than the number of cases reported to the CDC, it’s time for Congress to recognize that we need to do more to prevent the spread of tick-borne disease. My legislation will help increase awareness and promote early detection, which is a critical component to a good prognosis.”