Meeting #2 Report
Lyme Disease Task Force Meeting #2 Henrico, Virginia
Excellent report on the second meeting from Michael Sluss of the Roanoke Times.
Roanoke Times- Roanoke.com
Lyme disease panel hears from experts
They told Gov. Bob McDonnell's task force that education and research are needed.
By Michael Sluss firstname.lastname@example.org
RICHMOND -- After the first two meetings of Gov. Bob McDonnell's task force on Lyme disease, the panel's chairman is sure of one thing.
"I think it's pretty clear we need more science," said Michael Farris, the longtime home-schooling advocate and former candidate for lieutenant governor, after presiding over a four-hour meeting Friday.
McDonnell last fall tapped Farris to lead a task force to explore prevention and treatment of a tick-borne disease that is on the rise in Virginia. Farris has a personal interest in the issue. His wife and seven of his 10 children have been diagnosed with Lyme.
"I believe that anybody who's dogmatic about any side of the kind of controversies around Lyme is speaking prematurely," said Farris, the chancellor of Patrick Henry College in Loudoun County. "We're in the early scientific stages of a very important disease that's affected a lot of people, and I think we need more science."
The task force in late November held hearings on the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme, a controversy that has worked its way into the halls of the General Assembly. Friday's hearing focused largely on prevention and education efforts, and the testimony exposed issues that Farris said the state needs to address.
Some panel members voiced dismay at how little the state spends on Lyme-related research and education. David Gaines, public health entomologist with the Department of Health, said less than $20,000 in state funds goes toward work on Lyme.
"You print up a few color brochures, you've blown your budget," Farris said. "I do think the Virginia General Assembly in due course will have to pay more attention to what we need to do to fund a little bit of research."
Among other things, the state lacks the funding to conduct a geographically diverse survey to assess infection rates of deer ticks that spread the bacterial illness, the task force was told.
The task force on Friday heard presentations about the emerging use of bait stations with attached rollers that apply pesticide to feeding deer; and about Virginia's efforts to contain the exploding deer population. They also heard from scientists about the need to improve education and initial diagnosis of Lyme disease, which many experts believe is severely underreported.
"Educating health care practitioners is critical, and I don't know who has primary responsibility for that, but I think we all have responsibility for that," said Kerry Clark, a professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of North Florida.
The task force will hold a meeting in Roanoke in March and should complete its work this summer. In the meantime, a state delegate had decided to hold off on legislation that would protect so-called "Lyme-literate" doctors who are defying most mainstream practitioners by prescribing long-term antibiotics for patients with chronic symptoms.
Del. Tom Rust, R-Fairfax County, who sponsored the bill last year, said he will wait until the task force completes its work to develop new legislation for the 2012 General Assembly session.
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