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Letter:On Lyme Disease Awareness Bill

To the Editor:

I am thrilled to hear that Governor Bob McDonnell signed the “Lyme Disclosure Act,” House Bill 1933, into law. Raising awareness about this terrible disease would not have been possible without the help of Del. Barbara Comstock, for introducing this important legislation and that of her colleagues, Delegates Ramadan and Hugo, for co-patroning this measure. The debilitating effects of Lyme Disease are difficult to fathom if you have not seen first-hand, as I have, how this illness affects our community and the ones we love.

I have a family friend, a mother of five, who has been infected by this illness on three separate occasions. One of the only chances for recovery is an early diagnosis. Current testing methods don’t always provide this opportunity. There is a high rate of false negatives in testing for Lyme because the testing mechanism is based on the evidence of anti-bodies, which are not always present and vary based on the date of infection. Not only that, the test is administered in such a way that the patient may not understand the test’s shortcomings. It’s not as simple as placing a disclaimer on a box because the test is conducted at a medical facility and not at home while purchased over the counter.

A greater understanding of the test can help with making early diagnoses, increasing opportunities for treatment when necessary, and planning for long term care. While this bill will not help cure those already infected, it will help inform patients of the propensity of high false negative in testing for Lyme, and will encourage a patient to re-test if their symptoms persist. Many patients who live with these symptoms are misdiagnosed as a result of the false negative test and are led to believe their symptoms do not exist or are the cause of another medical ailment. I appreciate the initiative that Delegate Comstock took in getting behind this issue after learning about it from members in our Vienna community. I also hope my letter will continue to further awareness of Lyme Disease so that beyond testing, possible prevention opportunities can be taken moving forward.

John Dowd

Vienna