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    Battling Lyme disease with the force

    With the rising numbers of Lyme disease cases in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and Virginia Secretary William Hazel set up a task force in November 2010 to study and recommend what needs to be done. Mike Farris, chairman of the governor’s task force and 11 other appointed members met June 30 at the Loudoun County Government Center and unanimously passed a final recommendation to give to McDonnell.

    The task force was to study the areas of diagnosis, treatment, prevention, the impact on children and public education.

    “Encouraging it doesn’t mean that the Virginia government needs to buy it,” Farris said. “We can encourage it in a variety of ways but it doesn’t mean the Virginia government needs to fund it – we can privately fund it.”

    About two dozen Loudoun County residents showed up to the task force’s recommendation hearing. The group met first in Purcellville Nov. 30, 2010 and then held five hearings in Virginia Beach, Richmond, Roanoke, Springfield and Harrisonburg. 

    Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are affecting growing numbers of people in Virginia, according to the final draft report the task force drew up. And it’s not in particular areas of Virginia, according to the task force. Infected ticks are traveling throughout the state.

    Lyme is caused by a “spirachete bacterium in the same family as syphilis and it can invade multiple organs systems and has a variable multistage progression with a tremendous range of symptoms.”

    According to the force, the mandatory reporting of Lyme cases has gone unreported to the Virginia Department of Health or have been overlooked.

    Farris and other members of the task force recommended requiring the cooperation of everyone in Virginia, from businesses to the government to those who have Lyme disease.

    “Basically [it’s to] encourage physicians to go above and beyond what VDH is recommending because it’s an evolving disease,” Kathy Meyer, co-organizer of Parents of Children with Lyme Support Network said.

    Diagnosis

    Acknowledgment is one of the top priorities that the task force is trying to convey to medical authorities. The recommendation stated that some Virginia medical community members refuse to consider a diagnosis of Lyme and related illnesses.

    Some members of the Virginia medical community say we do not have Lyme in Virginia or it’s not in this “part of Virginia,” according to the task force.

    The recommendation also noted that the VHD should provide information to clinicians on Lyme and to make it a clinician’s responsibility to report Lyme cases.

    Treatment

    The task force addressed treatment options, cures and how the state should be testing for Lyme. But, according to the task force “there is no serological test that can tell a medical provider when a patient has been cured of Lyme” and “there is no scientific basis for concluding that 30 days or less of antibiotics cures every case of Lyme disease.”

    Members of the task force spoke with people suffering from the disease who said that with long-term antibiotics, their cases of Lyme were successf ully treated.

    The task force reported public concerns that some insurance carriers are not covering the treatment and expenses. According to task force reports, patients can spend thousands of dollars a month for their treatment. The task force recommended that the Bureau of Insurance take up the issue of insurance covering expenses incurred from Lyme.

    Public education and prevention

    The task force made public education and prevention a big goal in recommendations to the governor. The health department and other state and local agencies should place greater emphasis on the public’s education through radio, television and other media, according to the report.

    Farris and other members also recommended that McDonnell establish a group under the Secretary for Natural Resources along with the Secretary of Health and Human Resources in order to find strategies to control deer and tick populations. This new group, the task force says, should be included in funding decisions for the 2012 Virginia Budget.

    Some prevention practices include landscaping efforts in homeowners’ yards to prevent deer and mice from entering. This can be done through deer control methods like expanding the duration of hunting season and raising the limits on how many deer each hunter is allowed to kill.

    Ways to limit human exposure to ticks include repellants, wearing clothes that cover arms and legs, showering after being in potential tick infested areas and nightly tick checks. Family pets should also be checked and either vaccinated or treated topically.

    Children

    The task force recommended that the state should consider proper construction of schools in order to prevent deer population increases and tick exposures. Also, when students go outdoors, they should take into account the risk of the area they are entering. If there is risk, they should wear appropriate clothing to cut down on risks of tick exposure.
    Education of teachers, students, school nurses and other professionals in the schools is also a huge recommendation that the task force wants authorities to focus on.

    The task force will give these recommendations to Gov. Bob McDonnell to take into consideration in addressing Lyme disease in Virginia.

    Check out the Q&A with Michael Farris by clicking here.

    Comments

    Feel your hate, Farris. Let it flow through you and consume you. Then you will become powerful!


    It’s not enough to treat your dogs and cats with products like Frontline. I did that every month, and yet, our cats would still bring in ticks. I called Frontline and they said it takes two days for the tick to die. So we made the decision to keep our cats inside.  I strongly recommend that anyone in a rural area keep cats either inside or outside, and keep dogs in the garage at night. Do not let you pets jump on furniture, beds. We used to have a pet door and no doubt this is why we kept finding ticks in our house.  The black-legged nymph ticks are so small, you will not see them. If you must have your pet inside, treat faithfully, all 12 months keep out of bedrooms and each day check your pet and yourself because they will bring ticks into the house. It is a sad reality.


    Mr. Farris has publicly explained his involvement with this Task Force.  He has been active in politics in the past, but chose instead to become involved in Lyme Disease education and advocacy in Virginia, because, “the tick”, his wife and most of his children have been ill with Lyme. He has seen the devastation and denial firsthand, and “gets it.”  He initiated this Task Force. If you had bothered to attend any of the hearings, you would know this.  His involvement is open, truthful, and a credit to Virginians. Regardless of your political beliefs, or your choice of education philosophies, you should appreciate what Mr. Farris has done for Virginians.  This is extraordinary, this Task Force, and its report.  I applaud the Governor, Mr. Farris, and all Task Force members for taking a stand against the status quo, the medical establishment, and the CDC.  Our family has suffered terribly from Lyme and coinfections. Almost everyone on our street in in western Loudoun has this.  It is a nightmare, but with Mr. Farris’s involvement, I finally see a glimmer of light. 

    Stop the negativity, everyone.  If we are to succeed we must be unified against the lyme denialists. 

    Thank you Governor McDonnell, Mr. Farris, panel members, experts and citizens who testified. I am, after 6 long years, hopeful that something will change.


    “Here we go again. Murdering all the deer in Virginia because people are too stupid to take the proper precautions when going outdoors. Do the research, people, mice are the ones that carry the ticks that cause Lyme disease, not the deer!!!”

    Bluebird is an idiot, I have been suffering with Lyme for about 5 years, I am an avid wildlife photographer, took all the precautions, Deet, light colored clothing, check for ticks etc.. The tick that infected me was no bigger than the head of a small pin and was in my black chest hair.  I did find it. No Bulls Eye, was misdiagnosed twice.One test said I didn’t have it, another one did. I was in a local Leesburg park that has a large Deer population, saw plenty of them, never saw a mouse.I am an avid wildlife lover and defender,but this area is overun with Deer who continue to lose their open space, and all you have to do is look at some of the undersized deer to see that they are over populated and many look sick. Northern VA needs to thin out the Deer Population.


    Thank you, Mike Farris and all who serve on the task force! People need to be very careful criticizing something they do not live out themselves…

    We took every precaution, never saw the tick, never had a bullseye. Lyme, Bartonella, and Babezia have changed my son’s life forever.

    PS: Mike Farris does not “run” PHC…LOL Get your facts straight before commenting…


    Just a few remarks: #1 - @thetick: Dr. Farris is to be commended, not vilified. There’s a darn good chance this task force was Dr. Farris’ idea, not the Governor’s. So, when you or someone you love contracts a tick-borne disease and finds fast, effective treatment, you may have Dr. Farris to thank for it.
    #2 - I would agree with Dr. Pollack that finding and removing ticks promptly is your best bet, but keep in mind, a large percentage of people with Lyme Disease NEVER remember a tick bite. If it were only so cut-and-dry, we wouldn’t need this task force.
    #3 - Deer, mice, birds, bunnies, puppies, kittens, etc. can all bring Lyme-infected ticks near or into your home. Take any and all necessary precautions in my book. I’ve seen how Lyme ravages the brains of children. So catch ‘em, shoot ‘em, get rid of the animals that harbor the ticks. Don’t blame the hunter, though…blame #4—>
    #4 - Let’s just take the idea of Plum Island off the table, since that’s just too much for some people to handle. Even without Plum Island and biowarfare, our GOVERNMENT has meddled in, regulated and now ignored Lyme disease research, vaccines, etc. From regulations allowing profit-making on patented organisms, to outright conflict of interests by those deemed capable of creating current treatment guidelines, Lyme disease, as an opportunitistic bacteria, has grown into a complex, highly misunderstood monster that few doctors can even begin to treat. The government knows this, and that’s one of the reasons why there is such a widespread mission to keep information from the public. Imagine the panic if the truth came out! Lyme is the fastest-spreading infectious disease in the U.S., and Loudoun County is #3 on the list of counties nationwide. There are FEW Northern Virginia doctors who can effectively treat early- and late-stage disseminated Lyme. It’s difficult to study because the bacteria presents differently in people due to individual immune system response, when they were bit, how long without treatment, etc. etc. The majority of our medical professionals are so far from being able to adequately treat Lyme disease that, in my opinion, they find it easier to just ‘dismiss it.’ And thanks to CDC guidelines, they can do just that. So, my fellow Loudoun residents, perhaps instead of vilifying those who have stepped up to PROTECT fellow Virginians, we should THANK them! (And put our own personal ideologies aside.) They are one small group of professionals, with varied years of experience, who have the COURAGE to stand up and say the things that need to be said.


    @LetCommonSenseRule,

    In a word, YES.

    Private medical information should be kept private. Our government has no right to intrude upon the privacy of its citizens. In my opinion, NO public “need” overrides this.

    If you’re afraid of encountering some “contagious” person in a movie theater, then DON’T GO TO THE THEATER. If you’re afraid of contracting some disease by sitting next to someone on an airplane, THEN DON’T FLY. Stay at home, and live your life in fear. The rest of us can accept the risks inherent in community living and go ahead enjoying our lives.

    As far as I’m concerned, PRIVATE medical information is between a citizen and his/her doctor. Government, law enforcement, pharmaceutical companies, and even God himself should have no authority to change that, as there is no reason compelling enough in my book.

    Yes, this is dealing in “black and white” terms and after further discussion I’d likely be able to identify a few isolated circumstances in which this principle might need some further refinement. But in the vast majority of cases strict patient privacy and confidentiality should be absolute.


    So, let me get this straight, West Ender.  People having, say, a highly contagious disease with a high mortality rate should be able to keep it secret and sit by you in the movie theatre or serve you food at McDonalds?  Tuberculosis comes to mind.

    And frankly, Big Business has Become Big Brother.  They ask a lot more about my health history than the government ever has.


    One does have to wonder why there is a law that requires all positive titers for Lyme tests at labs to be reported to the CDC…

    It seems to me that the government should have no right to monitor, know, or learn the health status of any individual or group of individuals unless people voluntarily include themselves in such a study.

    One is also left to wonder the bigger picture on this. Why are the laws now set up to allow government access to health records, and what is really behind the push to have electronic health records readily searchable by the government?


    Being married to a top Lyme Doctor-researcher it is safe to say that there has been a targeted deny, smear and destroy campaign generated by your caring and loving CDC and insurance companies.

    Many of these doctors in denial follow the CDC in lockstep like zombies, scared to practice for fear of losing their medical license. Medicine is a practice, not a black and white science.

    I have watched these same doctors become believers in the disease as it impacts their loved ones. They call my wife at home and plead for answers. Being the angel that she is, guidance and help is provided to the same doctors who once called her a heretic .

    I am also not afraid to mention these 2 words: Plum Island.  We have been guinea pigs for hundreds of experiments conducted by the Military/Pharma industrial complex.

    Before you demonize my thinking that your government could be so evil, do your research on population testing and don’t forget your Vaccinations!


    Nice headline that is, young Peters.


    Here we go again. Murdering all the deer in Virginia because people are too stupid to take the proper precautions when going outdoors. Do the research, people, mice are the ones that carry the ticks that cause Lyme disease, not the deer!!! Spray your shoes, wear your pants in your socks. Use your common sense, if you live in or near the woods spray your yard on a regular basis. You people make my puke. The first thing you always want to do is to blame the wildlife and murder them to get rid of a problem that can be prevented with a little common sense.


    How about we reduce the deer population back to the population that existed in 1607?  I think that would be a huge step in reducing Lyme disease’s impact.  And it would probably help reduce car accidents and have some other secondary but beneficial effects.


    Readers might be mindful that finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of tick-borne infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agent of Lyme disease, and then only if the tick is beyond a certain developmental stage and after a defined period of feeding. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more information, visit https://identify.us.com.  The results can be of value to patient and clinician alike.
    Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)


    This issue is nothing to play with. I as a person with Lyme myself. I have been dealing with it for many years.


    Tell me this isn’t the same Mike Farris that runs the madrassa over in Purcellville (known by some as Patrick Henry College…although I’m sure a freedom loving founder like Mr. Henry would be appalled at what they do in his name). 

    This is the best that Governor McDonnell can do? Hand off a serious problem to an ideologue?

    Sad but true, I guess

    I

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