Lyme Group Warns Bush May Not Be Out of Woods

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The California Lyme Disease Association warns that President Bush may not be cured of Lyme disease. Although he finished one course of treatment, symptoms can return months or years later.

The California Lyme Disease Association has some advice for President George W. Bush about his recently disclosed bout of Lyme disease: Don't be too quick to dismiss the threat it can pose.

"We hope for his sake it was caught early and treated sufficiently," says CALDA president Phyllis Mervine. "Unfortunately, that's not the case for many people who contract tick-borne infections."

Even with prompt treatment, Mervine said, up to sixty percent of people infected with Lyme disease can relapse after a standard course of antibiotics. Additionally, Lyme disease symptoms can recur months to years after the original exposure. "Regrettably, there is no definitive lab test to prove the disease has been eradicated from the body," she said.

According to Mervine, untreated or undertreated Lyme disease is famous for mimicking many conditions including viruses, attention deficit disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Lupus, dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, autoimmune diseases, and other health problems.

"There are two standards of care for Lyme disease. We endorse the guidelines of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, which call for individualized treatment," said Mervine. "There is plenty of evidence that more antibiotic treatment can help people with chronic Lyme. However, insurance companies don't like to pay for it."

Lyme disease is spread by ticks that can be as small as a poppy seed. Their bite is usually painless. "Approximately 50 percent of people with Lyme disease don't recall a tick bite and less than 50 percent report the typical bull's-eye rash," Mervine said. "Prompt and adequate treatment early in the course of the disease is the best way to prevent future complications."

Congress is currently considering legislation to provide $100 million for Lyme disease research and education over the next five years. Mervine hopes President Bush's experience will lead him to support the bills. "Lyme disease affects millions of Americans," she said, "and receives hardly any government funding."

Lyme-carrying ticks can be found throughout the United States. Hikers, campers and others who spend time outdoors are most at risk from the disease.

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