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Lyme Disease information bill to become law

Loudoun delegates in the General Assembly got a boost last week in their persistent fight against the debilitating Lyme Disease.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the Lyme Disease Information Disclosure Act on March 14, a measure introduced by Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34th) and sponsored by Dels. Tag Greason (R-32nd), Tom Rust (R-86th), David Ramadan (R-87th) and Randy Minchew (R-10th).

The legislation will require state Department of Health officials to provide information to doctors regarding the possibility of inaccurate negative results and an ensuing misdiagnosis of Lyme. Doctors must then disclose this information to patients.

Comstock called the new law, which goes into effect July 1, a “great step in raising awareness about this terrible disease.”

“Passage of this legislation is important to so many of my constituents who have Lyme Disease or have someone in their life who suffers from this disease,” Comstock said in a prepared statement. “So often, they go untreated and undiagnosed for months and even years.”

Northern Virginia, and Loudoun County specifically, has one of the highest infection rates in the country of Lyme Disease, caused by bacteria people get after being bitten by ticks infected with the organism Borrelia burgdorferi. That organism is maintained in wild rodents, deer, other mammals and certain ticks, most commonly the black-legged (deer) tick, according to the Loudoun County public information office. Lyme is generally transferred to people by the bite of an infected tick.

Infections occur year round, but are more common in late spring and summer and in people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Dogs, cats and horses can also acquire the disease.

Loudoun's Board of Supervisors last year declared 2012 “Lyme Disease Awareness Year,” adopted a 10-point action plan to mitigate the disease and created a Lyme Disease Commission.

According to Del. Minchew, misdiagnoses are common, given 71 percent of people tested see a negative result. An inaccurate test can cause victims to suffer permanent damage as the disease goes untreated, Minchew said.

"Lyme disease affects the quality of life of all those affected, and our region has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the Commonwealth and indeed, in the nation,” Minchew said. “I strongly support initiatives to eradicate this disease. By providing education and awareness about the problems with testing reliability, this legislation is one such step in the process to lessen the suffering that Lyme Disease inflicts upon its victims."

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