Lyme Disease

November 8, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 40
Can the tick-borne illness be controlled?
By Jennifer Weeks


Brandi Dean (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Jonathan Wiggs)
Brandi Dean, a 36-year-old mother of two from Boston, takes antibiotics to try to control her Lyme disease, one of the most common infectious diseases in the United States. Federal officials say about 300,000 Lyme cases occur in the United States annually. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/Jonathan Wiggs)

Lyme disease, caused by tick bites, is on the rise. In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said new studies indicate that an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme disease occur in the United States each year — 10 times the number officially reported. If this estimate stands, it would make Lyme the nation's third most common infectious disease. Virtually every aspect of the disease is controversial, from diagnosis and treatment to the effectiveness of preventive strategies. Most conventional medical experts say Lyme can be treated with two to four weeks of antibiotics, but about one-fifth of treated patients have persistent symptoms, such as fevers, fatigue, joint pain, dizziness, arthritis, memory problems and depression. Patient advocacy groups and some doctors say such “chronic” Lyme disease can persist for months or years, requiring long-term antibiotic treatment. Some states have passed laws protecting doctors who prescribe alternative therapies.

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