and then there’s Lyme (worse than measles/no vaccine)

A friend posted a link to this article about the CDC’s top 5 health threats for 2014.  The bit that stood out to me appeared early in the article:

1. The emergence and spread of new microbes

While it’s rare, CDC scientists do come across new diseases each year. In 2013, the new Heartland virus carried by ticks was confirmed in northwest Missouri. Federal health investigators collected samples in the state after two farmers from St. Joseph were sickened by the virus that carried a novel genetic profile.

Huh, I thought.  That sounds like Lyme.

Lyme disease is something I find personally frustrating..not in a ‘wow I’ve had it and it friggin’ sucks’ way – though it does friggin’ suck.  I find it frustrating because it’s relatively easy to treat..if you get it diagnosed quickly enough and if your doctor believes you might have it.  That point sounds odd, until you start to do some research and you realize that the symptoms of the disease are so much like so many other things that it can be wicked hard to identify the culprit of your sickness as being Lyme.  I’ve personally heard stories of doctors refusing to test for Lyme because there are no reported cases in that area.

The problems with that include a) it’s not taking vacation travel into account, and b) it’s assuming the CDC information is correct, when that info is a little misleading.   The CDC reports Lyme is not found nationwide. Well, if you count Hawaii’s zero count as being cause to say it’s “not found nationwide,” I guess that’s correct.  But I think it’s a little (?) misleading.  Recent news stories state that the number of Lyme cases is around 300,000.

“Usually, only 20,000 to 30,000 illnesses are reported each year, making it the most commonly-reported tick-borne illness in the country. For many years, CDC officials have known that many doctors don’t report every case and that the true count was probably much higher.” (taken from the link above)

So we have a disease that could be treated with antibiotics if caught early, but it’s often misdiagnosed and it’s very under-reported. If it’s left untreated – or mistreated – this curable condition becomes a crippling one.

To give some perspective, we have people up in arms about measles in the US.  We had 222 cases in 2011.


We have roughly 300,000 cases of Lyme per year.

So there must be a vaccine, right?

Well…there was.  “It was discontinued by the manufacturer in 2002, citing low demand.”  Not ‘it wasn’t safe’..not ‘we didn’t have enough cases being reported’…just low demand.

Even at 20,000-30,000 reported cases a year…low demand?

Well, maybe it didn’t work.

No, it did.  And folks used it.  “Between the time of its licensure in 1998 and July 31, 2000, about 1.5 million doses of the vaccine were distributed.”  Yes, there were reports of adverse reactions.. “After examining the reports, researchers “did not detect unexpected or unusual patterns of reported adverse events.”  This report says that lawsuits are the reason the vaccine was taken off the market – that,  and, bad press.  Also, it wasn’t on the recommended vaccination schedule, so it wasn’t protected against lawsuits the way things like the measles vaccines are.

This all makes for a complicated situation.  Without legal protection against lawsuits, this vaccine went away.  But you don’t know that without doing some digging, because the CDC just says, “Oh, no one wanted it.”

Is the answer to just try to force everyone to get this vaccine, should the newest version be released later this year as predicted?   Does that mean we add one more vaccine to the 40 or so kids are already getting?  Can it be an optional one?  What about the concern of mercury being used in vaccines?  (Mercury is wicked bad in general, but REALLY wicked bad if you have Lyme.)  Ideally, of course, someone getting the vaccine is healthy…but I find myself raising an eyebrow here.

And to bring it back around..Lyme is a Big Bad.  It’s not fatal.  It can be life-crippling…I’d go so far as to say devastating, which is why I would personally like to see a vaccine created for this disease.  Yes, it can be treated with antibiotics, and the better answer, perhaps, is to create better tests and have a medical community better educated about the disease and more willing to test for Lyme.  My personal opinion – I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV – is that there’s a bunch of other autoimmune stuff being wrongly diagnosed as everything but Lyme, and people are suffering wrongly because of their misdiagnosis.

But the CDC is apparently worried about a disease that has had two cases reported thus far.  That made it into the #1 concern for 2014…not the rising number of Lyme cases.  Maybe there’s not enough money to be made, if you look at the CDC site.  If you look, is this an expensive disease to treat.  What looks to be the most effective drug costs around $2k and is often not covered by insurance.  If I’m reading this right, the vaccine only ran about $100.

…I don’t like where that thought takes me.


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