I opened my mailbox not long ago, grabbed the mail, and noticed a deer tick clinging to an envelope. This is the second time a deer tick was delivered with my mail. These ticks are everywhere!
After a fierce battle in the legislature, including a threatened veto by Governor Paul LePage, Representative Deb Sanderson’s Lyme disease bill was enacted into law. In the end, the Governor allowed it to become law without his support and signature.
Deb was ecstatic, and deserves a lot of credit for her determination in pursuing this bill. I saw her the day the governor sent word that he planned to veto her bill and she was fuming. But she didn’t give up.
Essentially, the bill forbids the Maine Medical Board from penalizing doctors who treat Lyme disease with long term heavy dosages of antibiotics. My friend Harry Vanderweide has benefitted from such a regime, and I provided Harry’s story to Deb Sanderson for distribution at the public hearing on her bill. I also posted Harry’s story in this outdoor news blog. You can read it here.
I did receive by email a message from a reader of this column, who doubts the bill will be effective. Here’s what he had to say:
I am a retired lawyer who spent much of his career defending hospitals, doctors and other health care providers in malpractice actions, and to a lesser extent defending doctors before the board of medicine. The bill you mention is well meaning, but in my view not terribly effective. The Board would be highly unlikely to penalize doctors for prescribing antibiotics and it’s probably beyond its authority anyway. The biggest problem, from my point of view, is that doctors are not trained in Lyme and are far more likely to be regarded as quacks by their colleagues than being sanctioned by the Board. There are doctors who have taken a very strong position against chronic Lyme, and it is easier for the average physician to follow that lead than to buck the tide and immerse themselves in the peer reviewed literature that supports the concept of chronic Lyme. I don’t see a quick way out of this mess until prominent medical schools begin a serious, independent study of Lyme and teach their medical students and practicing physicians how to diagnose and treat Lyme. I have heard that Johns Hopkins may be preparing to do just that.
Another Lyme Bill
A second bill, to levy a small fee on the sale of pesticides to noncommercial users, was carried over to the 2016 legislative session. That bill, sponsored by Senator Jim Dill, would have generated funding to subsidize the testing of deer ticks at the new lab being constructed, with a bond endorsed by the people of Maine, at the University of Maine. It will be important to make sure those tests are inexpensive, so Mainers won’t hesitate to send those ticks to the lab for testing.
I was also pleased to read, in the Bangor Daily News, about a program sponsored by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the 2015 Lyme Disease and Awareness Month. Maine CDC partnered with Maine schools asking students in kindergarten through eighth grade to create posters with the theme “Inspect and Protect,” emphasizing the importance of prompt removal of ticks.
The contest winners were Carter Galley, Grade 3, Owls Head Central School (poster shown here), Phoebe Ackor, Grade 5, Owls Head Center School, and Colby Emery, Grade 6, Winthrop Middle School. You can see the award winning posters here.
New Curriculum for Teachers
Maine CDC has also created a curriculum for grades 3 – 5 about ticks, mosquitoes, and related diseases. Teachers interested in adding Lyme education to their lesson plans can find CDC’s curriculum here.