A state lawmaker wants to extend coverage for workers' compensation to workers who contract Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses while working outdoors or treating animals.
The measure, proposed by Syracuse-area state Sen. John Mannion, comes as lawmakers are addressing growing concerns around Lyme disease in the state. New York is among the states with the highest instances of Lyme in the country.
Mannion's proposal would add tick-borne diseases and illnesses to the list of occupational diseases that would qualify as a payable benefit for disabilities sustained under the Workers' Compensation Law in New York. Contracting Lyme can have lingering and long-term effects for patients.
“I’ve seen in my own family and my own workplace how disruptive and long-term Lyme disease can be," Mannion said. "Unfortunately, Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are generally hard to diagnose. Symptoms often mimic those of dozens of other illnesses and can be misdiagnosed as mental illness, depression, or nutritional deficiencies. I’ve seen teachers use up all their sick time and be forced to go on unpaid leave because of Lyme disease."
Climate change has been attributed to the rise in Lyme disease and the prevalence of ticks for a longer period of time in the warm weather months. Lyme and other disease-carrying ticks have also been found in more areas of New York in recent years.