DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Lyme disease is a chronic, painful disease. It is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. And Delaware lawmakers are taking aim at it.
A task force lawmakers formed last year to look at Lyme disease in the First State reported its recommendations Thursday. Panel members want to better prevent spread of the disease, raise awareness about it and improve treatment and insurance coverage.
Delaware is right in the heart of the most heavily affected area of the country - the Northeast. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show just 14 states account for 96 percent of the cases across America.
That makes having good treatment in Delaware important. But Carol Webster, who has had Lyme disease for more than three years, says that can be hard to find.
"I got a diagnosis pretty quickly but could not find a Lyme-literate doctor, somebody who could treat me properly," she said.
A tick bit her while she was out gardening. Other people get the tick-borne illness doing things like walking in the woods.
The disease touches many people, including perhaps Delaware's most famous athlete. WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne got it while in high school.
"When she was at the University of Delaware all of the sudden she couldn't play. Nobody knew why. Then it came out she had Lyme disease," explained Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, on Thursday morning.
Rep. Schwartzkopf co-chaired the Lyme Disease Task Force. It is recommending, improving coverage for patients because treatment can be expensive, having the state's colleges increase research on ticks, creating an oversight board for educating health care professionals and giving DNREC the authority to address ticks.
Some of the task force's recommendations require new legislation. Those bills will be introduced when lawmakers get back to work at Legislative Hall next month.
Webster says she usually doesn't think task forces accomplish much, but she's hopeful here.
"I hear how serious they are. They actually have personal connections to people with Lyme. That's the thing that will change your opinion of it."
Delaware ranked 8th in terms of incidences of the disease in 2014.
The CDC says there are approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease reported nationwide each year. But the CDC says only a fraction of the illnesses out there are actually reported.