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State Senator Alloway

(6/2016) Even though I no longer serve as chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, sportsmen and women remain very important to me. I have always viewed the role of the committee to protect the health, safety and welfare of the sportspeople in our Commonwealth.

Thatís why I remain a member of the panel, and thatís why Iíll continue to advocate for our state legislature to take a lead on Lyme disease education. I recently held a Lyme disease forum in Chambersburg, featuring PA Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy, as one of our guest speakers. Local physicians Tim Stonesifer and Robert Mauss attended as well. Both specialize in the treatment of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness

The educational event drew more than 100 people to the Chambersburg Area Middle School.

Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing vector-borne diseases in the country. The ailment is transmitted by several species of deer ticks and once infected, it is 100 percent incurable.

Secretary Murphy stated that it is the departmentís priority to work with partners such as the Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Task Force on Lyme disease and Related Tick-Borne Diseases to better protect Pennsylvanians from the devastating effects of this condition. Sportsmen are at a much greater risk for Lyme disease due to the amount of time they spend outdoors.

In recent years, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts have reported the greatest number of cases. The disease can also cause arthritic, cardiac and neurological problems. It is successfully treated in early stages, - and often in later stages, with antibiotics.

There are steps you can take to be proactive in identifying, preventing and treating Lyme disease. One of the best ways to prevent tick bites is to wear long clothing that covers the skin while walking outdoors and using insect repellent. Avoid going outside barefoot. Clothes should be light-colored so ticks can be readily spotted. Brush off clothing before entering your house.

Pets are also subject to Lyme disease, and should be checked and brushed before coming indoors. Body checks are an important daily preventative measure. Ticks usually crawl upwards on the body for several hours before settling on a feeding site. Be sure to check hidden areas like the hairline, navel, groin and underarms.

One of the first lines of defense is recognizing symptoms. Signs include a rash that resembles a bullís eye near the bite mark, impaired motor functions, loss of vision, joint and muscle pain, vomiting and flu like symptoms. Failure to adequately treat the disease may lead to long-term damage to the heart and central nervous system.

If a tick is discovered, time is on your side because experts believe the disease is transmitted only after many hours of feeding. All ticks are not deer ticks and not all deer ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacteria. Recognizing the presence of deer ticks is an important task, but sometimes a difficult one since the adult is about the size of a pinhead and the nymph is not much larger than a pinpoint - and sometimes, bites are not likely to be felt. Remove a biting tick with tweezers by grasping firmly where the head is attached to the skin and pulling out slowly and steadily. If you save the tick, place in a sealed container in rubbing alcohol, and obtain identification information from your county health department.

I encourage all sportsmen and women to know the facts about Lyme disease! The severe long-term consequences of this disease make it imperative to ensure sportsmen understand the risks and symptoms so they can seek prompt treatment if exposed.

For more information, check out the American Lyme disease Foundation website: www.aldf.com. I have brochures available at my district offices in Gettysburg and Chambersburg.

I am planning other Lyme disease awareness events in the future. Please check out my website at www.senatoralloway.com for regular updates.

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