Sen. Collins holds Senate field hearing on Lyme Disease

ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Did you know Maine has the highest rate of Lyme disease in the country and that those over age 65 are afflicted at higher rates than any other age group?

Senator Susan Collins held an official Senate field hearing in Orono Thursday to learn more about what's being done to combat the disease.

"If we can join forces and collect data and share information, disseminate best practices, raise public awareness, educate healthcare professionals, work with the researchers in the labs like here at the University of Maine which does such a great job, and work with our partners at the federal level and with those regional centers for excellence, I believe we can make a real difference,” Collins explained.

Lyme disease is a growing issue in Maine and across the country.

Last year, an estimated 450,000 Americans were diagnosed with Lyme disease, a staggering increase from year's past.

At an official Senate hearing held at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Research Lab in Orono, Senator Susan Collins learned about the work being done at the lab and shared information about her TICK Act.

Among other things, the act would establish an office that would develop a national strategy to prevent tick-borne diseases.

"It would compile data about the incidence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses so that we could start seeing patterns and better understand if there are hot spots in the United States that need to be addressed,” said Collins.

Paula Jackson Jones from Nobleboro knows firsthand what it's like to battle the disease. She contracted it while doing yardwork in 2009.

She was misdiagnosed by nearly two dozen medical professionals.

Jones hopes the TICK Act will help those battling the disease while providing funding and increase research and education for centers like the tick lab at the University of Maine, which provides tick diagnostics and does extensive research on over a dozen species of ticks found in Maine.

"When we all have the same passion and ambition to combat the growing number of tick-borne disease cases, and we all identify that the testing needs to be better, and the treatment options not only need to be better but accessible and affordable for patients, that's when things are going to turn the corner,” explained Jones.