The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that will strengthen the county’s role in curbing tick-borne illnesses, which affect tens of thousands of Americans each year, with the highest concentration in the Northeast.
The bill, drafted by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who represents the South Fork, requires the county Division of Vector Control to draft an annual plan that details the steps it will take to reduce the incidence of tick-borne diseases, as well as a way to measure the plan’s effectiveness over time.
The legislature passed the measure 16-0, with one abstention. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone still needs to sign the bill, though his administration has expressed support for the legislation.
“Lyme disease seems to be everywhere,” Mr. Schneiderman said on Wednesday. “I had been watching the towns and villages struggle to respond. My feeling was that the county ought to play a leadership role, because the towns don’t have a health department. They really can’t manage a health crisis.”
He added that the Division of Vector Control had focused its efforts on combating incidences of West Nile virus, though an individual is 300 times more likely to contract Lyme disease than the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. Once the bill is signed into law, the division will be required to submit its plan next October.
“It is killing people, debilitating people, and it’s growing,” Mr. Schneiderman said of Lyme disease. “We need a parallel focus on tick-borne illnesses and that’s what this bill does.”