The controversy of chronic Lyme disease - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

The controversy of chronic Lyme disease

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ALBANY, N.Y. -- May is Lyme disease awareness month, and the warmer weather is prime time for Lyme, which affects more people in the northeast than anywhere else in the country.

You a find tick or notice a bulls eye mark, now what? A visit to the doctor will get you a short course of antibiotics and many times that is all that's needed to stop the spread of Lyme disease. But according to some, it’s not always that easy or simple.

The northeast has the most concentrated number of Lyme disease cases in the country. Most know how you get it and how to prevent it, but what many don't know is just how controversial and political it really is especially when it comes to treatment.

“So the standard would be maybe three weeks or four weeks of antibiotics and almost like cookbookish ‘take these’ and ‘goodbye.’ When I see a patient that has a bull’s eye, I don't treat for less than six weeks,” said Lyme specialist Doctor Steven Bock.

He says that's because some Lyme patients with persistent symptoms ranging from aches and pains to heart palpitations, even memory loss and paralysis, are given a controversial diagnosis known as chronic Lyme.

The problem is, chronic Lyme is not recognized by most doctors, so insurance companies won't cover the associated costs forcing many patients like Missy Gallagher of Schoharie County to spend thousands of dollars a month out of her own pocket on treatment.

Health insurance providers base their coverage policies when it comes to Lyme on the recommendations of the CDC and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

NEWS10 ABC reached out to local infectious disease doctors to find out why chronic Lyme isn't acknowledged and the dangers they claim are associated with its treatment. Sue Ford with Albany Medical Center says their doctors are not available to discuss this issue and St. Peter's never returned our requests for an interview.

Despite the financial burden treating this disease has on patients and their families, many agree with Missy -- the choice is either financial stability or a life of health instability.

Fortunately, the politics of Lyme is slowly changing. In fact, right now a bill sponsored by Senator Terry Gipson is in the New York State Senate's Health Committee awaiting vote. If approved, the Tick Bite Act would require health insurers in New York to provide coverage for long-term medical care for Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens.

In addition to the Tick Bite Act, legislation passed the assembly just last week which would allow doctors to prescribe long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease and protect them from disciplinary action from the state medical board for doing so. That legislation now moves on to the senate for vote.

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