Thank you for the article “Lyme disease digging in as Maine mounts fight against it” (Dec. 9). Lyme disease is not only a medical issue but also a social work issue.

The Maine Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has recently endorsed the establishment of a committee on social work and Lyme disease. Our goals include raising clinicians’ awareness about the many ways in which tick-borne illness may be affecting our clients, and advocating for increased access to treatment and other necessary services.

Maine residents often experience difficulty obtaining an accurate diagnosis because of the inadequate and often inaccurate two-tiered standardized blood tests for Lyme disease. If Mainers are diagnosed, they may face difficulty obtaining appropriate treatment. Physicians often fail to test for common co-infections carried by ticks, which can also contribute to chronic illness.

Four weeks of antibiotics may manage cases that are detected early and that only involve one infection – but many people have more complicated situations, given the lack of accurate and timely diagnosis.

Tick-borne infection may present with emotional, psychological and neuropsychiatric symptoms. That means that sudden-onset depression, anxiety, memory problems, word-processing problems and learning disabilities may, in fact, be symptoms of tick-borne infection.

The social work profession pays attention to the environmental forces that create and contribute to problems in living. Disagreements in the medical community over the testing for, treatment of and the very existence of chronic Lyme disease can result in unnecessary suffering and misdiagnosis.

The disease can plunge many people into poverty, creating vulnerability and disempowerment in our population. Social workers in Maine are organizing to address these issues.

Jane Sloven, LCSW

Portland