A Commentary on The Vermont Department of Health’s Reports on Lyme and Tick-borne Diseases to the Vermont Legislature

It is important that the commentary below not be seen as an attack on the Vermont Department of Health. Instead, it is a call for more resources and funding to effectively address Lyme and tick-borne diseases in our state.

I first contacted the VDH in March, 2014. I submitted a report with suggestions on how they could make their website more helpful to Vermonters affected by Lyme disease. While these suggestions seemed well received, over the next two years little on the website was changed.

In 2016, after creating VTLyme.com, I contacted the VDH with the hope of collaborating, as we share a collective goal of educating Vermonters about the prevention and diagnosis of Lyme disease. The VDH refused this collaboration.

Three years after I first contacted the Vermont Department of Health, resources for Vermonters affected by Lyme and tick-borne diseases remain limited. In fact, not much has changed and – as shown by this commentary on the Vermont Department of Health’s reports on Lyme disease to the Vermont Legislature – much more work needs to be done to address tick-borne diseases in our state.

While there is controversy about Lyme disease, it is hard to argue with facts. The facts are that resources and programs the VDH reported as helping Vermonters with Lyme disease are broken, not currently accessible, or no longer exist. If you Google search of many of the programs listed in the legislative report, the primary search results are the legislative report itself.

Again, this commentary is meant to highlight a problem in Vermont: Vermont is #1 in the United States for incidence of Lyme disease, but there are few programs or institutions effectively educating Vermonters and their health care providers about the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

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My goal is that this commentary will result in a greater understanding of how Vermonters affected by Lyme disease have extremely limited resources, and how the VDH needs additional funding to address a health issue that impacts many Vermonters, especially Vermont’s children (who are at highest risk for Lyme disease) and those who work or play in our magnificent outdoors. The Vermont Department of Health should collaborate with other organizations to educate people about the prevention of Lyme disease, provide Vermonters with up-to-date, equitable, and science-based information on tick-borne diseases, and ensure effective diagnosis and treatment for all Vermonters.

Rebecca Zelis, MS