By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Nobody likes to see ticks on the job, but in the Midwest they are a fact of life. The worst-case scenario is Lyme disease, which can be crippling.
It’s even harder if you can’t get your health insurance to cover the high expense of fighting tick-borne illness.
Illinois will now require health insurers to cover long-term antibiotic therapy for people with tick-borne illnesses. The legislation passed both the House and Senate on unanimous, bipartisan votes, and was signed into law Aug. 13.
Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said it’s a potentially live-saving measure.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure that people have access to the potentially life-saving treatments they need,” he said. “It’s appalling how difficult it can be to receive treatment for Lyme disease in our state. This measure is going to be a huge help to thousands of people throughout Illinois.”
TOUGH TIME LIMIT
The old law had no requirement that long-term antibiotic therapy be covered, so doctors have had difficulty in prescribing treatments that last more than 28 days, but long-term therapy is the only known effective cure.
Manar said he was approached by a resident of his district whose daughter was suffering from Lyme disease and had difficulty obtaining the treatment. He held a public hearing about the problem and then became a co-sponsor of the bill, which allows doctors to prescribe the more aggressive treatments needed to treat Lyme disease without facing disciplinary action.
“A lot of people in my district suffer from Lyme disease, and the proposals we’ve moved through the Senate are major steps toward more effectively treating this life-altering illness,” he said.
Southern Illinois co-sponsors of the bill also included senators Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon), Christopher Belt (D-Cahokia), Dale Schimpf (R-Waterloo), Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) and Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg). House co-sponsors included Charles Meier (R-Washington County), Dave Severin (R-Benton) Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) and former representative Jerry Costello II (D-Red Bud).
Protect yourself from ticks on the job
Most people are aware that ticks live in areas of woods or long grass, but they can also be present on the construction jobsite.
Here are some tips to keep yourself protected during the tick-infested summer months.
- Remove ticks safely – To safely remove attached ticks, first disinfect the area with an alcohol swab. Next, using a pointy tweezer, grab the tick “head” as close to the skin as possible and simply pull straight out. Remember to disinfect the bite site again after pulling the tick out. If you don’t have a tweezer handy and the tick appears to be locked on, use a straight edge such as the side of a debit card or employee ID to gently brush the tick back and forth. This will irritate the tick and cause it to back out.
- Encourage daily tick checks – The best time to do a full body tick check is right after ending outdoor activity or while you’re cleaning up in the shower. Prompt removal of most species of ticks can prevent transmission of tick-borne illnesses.
- Wear tick-repellent clothing – Wear tick-repellent clothing or bugspray to protect yourself from ticks and other insects.
- Identify and avoid tick habitats – If possible, stay clear shady, wooded and weedy edges where ticks are typically found. Try to stick to low grass areas and always walk in the middle of maintained trails to limit your exposure.