Sign in with Google+ Sign in with LinkedIn
A Threat in a Grassy Stroll

NY Times article on Lyme disease

There's a lot to admire about Jane Brody's recent NY Times article on Lyme disease, A Threat in a Grassy Stroll. It will inform some who haven't ever heard of the disease (yes, they're out there), or people who had heard of it but know squat about it, such as my Aunt Louise, who called to offer her condolences after I was diagnosed. ("Unfortunately, nothing can be done, dear. Eating rosemary is supposed to help.") The article may even throw a wrench in the common nonsense that Lyme is "hard to get, and easy to cure," a myth that originally began where? With an article in the NY Times, by Gina Kolata.

Perhaps what I appreciate most about Brody's piece is that alongside the statistics and experts she quotes, she offers her own personal observations. After presenting the simplified version of the IDSA's and ILADS conflicting views on treatment, she says, "Although I cannot state with authority which side is correct, I have encountered enough previously healthy people who have suffered for months or years after initial treatment to suggest that there is often more to this disease than 'official' diagnostic and treatment guidelines suggest." The article's meta-text is twofold. First: Don't believe everything you read. And second: Don't discount your own observations.

My problems with the article are fairly nit-picky, and my bias in support of ILADS makes me frustrated to see this global organization of highly-educated physicians and researchers referred to as "a nonprofit medical group," but okay, they are a nonprofit medical group. I also think it's a little weak on Brody's part to suggest the ISDA simply agreed to revise its Lyme treatment guidelines, since in fact the IDSA faced criminal charges of antitrust if they refused to do so. Furthermore, Eva Sapi, PhD, director of Lyme disease research at UNH, says that even 40% DEET wasn't strong enough to repel ticks when she and her students ventured out on their tick-collecting walks through Fairfield County, CT. She recommends permethrin-saturated clothing instead. And Dr. Sapi says that ticks have been known to transmit bacteria after only one or two hours -- not the 24 hours that Brody says the vile little critters need.

Some of these transgressions, even if they're small, can spread damaging half-truths to the overall message about Lyme. The truth is, it's a serious disease. Easy to get, and hard to cure. The lucky ones are cured following the simplistic guidelines of the IDSA. But the numbers of sick people who don't get better on that protocol tell a different story. In all, I have to say it's exciting to see good reporters talking about Lyme, bringing their own observations into the mix, and not simply mouthing the words of the CDC.

Listen to the experts themselves, and use your own good judgment.
Comments