Lyme Disease Bill Signed By Governor

It was one of 196 bills signed on Tues.

A landmark Lyme disease bill was one of 196 pieces of legislation signed into law on Tuesday by Governor Larry Hogan. “It’s really being called a landmark piece of legislation and I think it truly is,” says Frederick County Delegate Kathy Afzali, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The law would require doctors and other health care professionals to inform their patients that the lab test for Lyme disease is not accurate, which would encourage them to ask about antibiotic treatment. “Those people don’t know that the Lyme test that’s commonly used by doctors–and honestly it’s the best test that they have–the test is only 30% accurate, which means that 70% of people are getting a false negative or a false positive,” she says.

Lyme disease is caused by a tick bite. It’s know for leaving behind a bulls-eye rash, but the rash doesn’t always appear after a tick bite.

If left untreated, it can cause neurological problems, joint pain, flu symptoms, rashes, swollen  lymph nodes, eye inflammation, fatigue, hear palpitations, hepatitis, numbness and hair loss, according to the website RM Healthy.

Afzali says the test is not very accurate if it’s taken within the first month a patient has been bitten by a tick. If the test is conducted about six-months later, the Lyme disease can show up, and Afzali says by that time, it’s too late.

“If you’re showing no signs of Lyme disease, let the doctor treat you. Many doctors are now just treating their patients regardless, even before the test. They’re getting them on the antibiotics. This is a good approach. It’s a tricky situation right now because we don’t have a good test,” Afzali says.

She says getting this legislation passed was “a heavy lift,” but she and other co-sponsors managed to convince legislators that the state has a problem with this disease. “So we have an epidemic. It’s up and down the eastern seaboard. Maryland is number five in terms of Lyme disease. So it’s important that people have information,” she says.

The other sponsors of this bill were Delegate Karen Lewis Young, and State Senator Ron Young.