Gillibrand and Gibson push for Lyme Disease measures

Posted at: 10/18/2013 4:35 PM
Updated at: 10/18/2013 8:51 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

ACRA - Karla Lehtonen battled to hold back tears as she recounted her family's struggles with Lyme disease.

"It changed so much that I still divide time into before Victoria got sick and after Victoria got sick," Lehtonen said.

First, daughter Victoria began suffering. "Her head started to hurt. Then her elbows and knees. She became sensitive to sunlight and noise," said Lehtonen.

Then eventually Carla caught it as well.

Lyme disease and related illnesses are spread by a tiny tick that clings to the body after humans go through wooded areas.

Even if you examine closely, there are problems noticing the tick in time, or testing and diagnosing exposure.

"How could it be that in a country as great as ours we don't have a test that picks up half the cases of Lyme," asked Rep. Chris Gibson (R - Kinderhook). "We've got to do better."

Gibson and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D - New York) are urging legislation to increase research, education and reporting on Lyme Disease.

"But with no vaccine to prevent Lyme Disease or the co-infections, we obviously have a very long way to go," Gillibrand said.

Democrat Gillibrand and Republican Gibson were joined by a number of Lyme Disease sufferers calling for increased research and better treatment from the federal government.

Per capita Columbia County has the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the country, Greene County just behind.

Ticks don't check your political registration before they bite. They don't ask your position on Obamacare before passing on Lyme disease or related illnesses. A few days ago this type of joint appearance would be unlikely.

"Well, it would be imperiled, right? Because the first order of business is to have a functioning government. So it's not likely that this event would have been going on," said Gibson.

Both Washington officials are working for their constituents. But Gillibrand's appearance here also helps Gibson, who has to run for re-election in just over a year and is already being challenged for his role in supporting the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.

"In this political atmosphere? It shouldn't be unusual. I mean, what the public asks of us, what the American people demand, what New Yorkers need are members of Congress that work together to solve those problems and in no instance should you not be working with your Republican colleague. Democrats and Republicans have to cross party lines, cross the aisle, put away the partisan rhetoric and do the work of governing," said Gillibrand.

Both Gillibrand and Gibson demonstrated a detailed knowledge of Lyme disease issues.

Whether such a joint appearance would be held a year from today, with the Congressional election just slightly more than two weeks away and control of the House at issue remains to be seen.