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Lyme treatment advocates to rally for control bill

Suffolk County legislator Jay Schneiderman stands on an

Suffolk County legislator Jay Schneiderman stands on an grass and weed overgrown street, an attraction for ticks. (Sept. 26, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

Lyme disease treatment advocates plan to rally Tuesday morning outside the Suffolk County Center in Riverhead in support of a bill that calls for a plan to control ticks that spread that and other illnesses.

The bill, introduced by Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), calls for the county's Division of Vector Control, which sprays and drains swamps and waterways to reduce mosquitoes, to draw up such a plan next year, and update it each year after that. The rally is set for 9 a.m.

Schneiderman said the plan also should look at a wide range of tick-control measures, but he does not expect it would involve the broad aerial spraying now used against mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, the State Senate Monday announced it was creating a bipartisan statewide Lyme and tick-borne disease task force to look into state and federal programs to control the spread of such illnesses. The task force would also come up with a plan for public education programs and work on ways to reduce exposure to ticks.

Lyme disease has been difficult to diagnose, and its symptoms can show up years after a person is bitten by a tick. It first became a reportable disease in New York in 1986, and since then there have been more than 95,000 confirmed cases in the state.

New York had 5,887 cases of Lyme disease in 2012, with Suffolk's 689 cases the most of any county in the state. Nassau had only 56 cases.

"I'd be happy to see the state play a larger role in reducing it [tick-borne diseases]," Schneiderman said. "It's beyond the capacity of towns and villages . . . it's a federal issue as well."

Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), a co-chairman of the new task force, said it has representatives from across the state. "We want to get the best practices . . . to see what works," LaValle said.

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