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Fighting for Chronic Lyme Disease Treatment

A bite from a tick always bring fear: the risk of Lyme Disease. The acute type is treated with a few weeks of antibiotics, but chronic Lyme Disease can stick around for years.
MONTPELIER - A bite from a tick always bring fear: the risk of Lyme Disease. The acute type is treated with a few weeks of antibiotics, but chronic Lyme Disease can stick around for years.

"We see so many sick people coming through our support group that have no place to turn in the state," said Betsy Ecklof, a member of the Lyme Support Group and the Vermont Lyme Action Committee.

Right now, doctors can prescribe long-term antibiotics for these chronic cases, but the CDC recommends against it, as does the Vermont Department of Health on its website. State Rep. Lynn Dickenson (R-St. Albans Town) says that can often scare doctors away from prescribing the medication.

"There have been some concerns about disciplinary action, being called before the medical review board," Rep. Dickenson said. Thats why she introduced a bill to protect doctors who prescribe long-term antibiotics.

"It's hard to diagnose and difficult to live with," Rep. Dickenson said.

Vermont has the 2nd highest rate of Lyme Disease in the U.S., which Betsy Ecklof says makes this bill that much more important.

"You can't go out on the playground, you can't play in our fields, you can't climb trees, you can't jump in leaves, you can't even play soccer anymore without the fear of Lyme Disease," she said. Ecklof says many sufferers have to go out of state for treatment, which insurance won't cover.

"It's not only a financial concern," she said. "It's to watch my loved ones suffer...it has been very hard to watch."

The bill would not require doctors to provide the long-term antibiotics.

"This is just to allow doctors to diagnose clinically and treat as they best deem fit," explained Samantha Burns, also a member of the Lyme Support Group.

The bill is being discussed in the House Health Care committee.

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