From Bonnie's Files
Monday, September 7, 2009
From Bonnie's Files: Lyme Disease
Summer brings people to enjoy more of the outdoors, and thus exposes many of us to Lyme Disease. In reviewing my files, I thought the following information needed to be circulated:
“…it wasn’t until 1976 that the American public first heard the term 'Lyme disease' in connection with numerous reported cases of illnesses after tick bites in the community of Lyme, Connecticut… tick-born illnesses or infested tick populations have been reported in nearly every state… If left untreated, the disease can progress to a more chronic stage (sometimes even several months later)… Standard medical treatment is with antibiotic therapy which is not always entirely effective and may cause spirochete die-off discomfort during the first few days. Antibiotics often cause secondary yeast infections as a side effect, so physicians and nutritionists often recommend the use of acidophilus supplements. It is imperative that antibiotic therapy be used due to the seriousness of the disease…” (from Herbal Insights Reflections, Summer, 1996, edition of Herbal Insights, Boulder, CO).
However, there are possible herbal preventives for landscaping and gardening and some herbs that may help the symptoms of Lyme disease. They are listed in the Handbook of Plants with Pest-Control Properties, also from Herbal Insights Reflections, undated.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) began surveilling Lyme Disease in 1982, and it became a nationally notifiable disease in January, 1991. In 1999, there were 16,273 cases reported. “The large number of reported LD cases during June and July reflects the seasonal peak…” (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 16, 2001, Vol. 50, No. 10).
In The New England Journal of Medicine, May 13,1993, some doctors wrote “… prevention of Lyme disease is desirable, it does not follow that prevention should be pursued regardless of the costs. Decisions about treatment must balance the benefits against the risks and monetary costs of specific strategies.”
“Health Check,” a column by Dr. Bob Arnot in Good Housekeeping, June, 1995, was devoted to “The Lowdown on Lyme Disease.” As with many diseases (as well as adverse vaccine reactions), he stated “Many people claim that the true incidence is even higher because many cases go unreported while others are missed. But some doctors believe that patients are being diagnosed with LD when they’re really suffering from something else.” “Much of the problem (of diagnosis) has to do with LD’s confusing array of symptoms. The clearest sign, the appearance of a bull’s-eye-shaped rash within weeks of a tick bite, is missing in up to 40% of cases… Although these are commonly called “deer ticks,” they can also be found on mice, raccoons, and other animals… A dog or cat who spends any time outdoors can be very susceptible to LD.” He then gives recommendations from a New York City veterinarian: Use special insecticides on your property (Daminix). Apply flea and tick formulas to your pet’s fur or a combination of garlic and brewer’s yeast added to the animal’s food daily. Scrupulously check your pet for ticks. They, too, can have the bull’s-eye-shaped rash and be treated with oral antibiotics.
As with almost any disease, the search becomes one for a vaccine. That was also the case for Lyme Disease. In 1993 clinical trials were underway. In the November 21, 1993, issue of The New York Times, Dr. Peter Krause, a scientist from the University of Connecticut, told an audience, “The best approach to this disease is prevention, and the best way to do that is with a vaccine.” Scientists are optimistic that this vaccine will help reclaim the wilderness for human use in the many parts of the country where fear of Lyme has kept residents indoors during the tick season.”
In the February 1, 1999, issue of Health News, the editors state “Even as the FDA approved the vaccine, the agency said that Lyme vaccination is not a simple process, and it doesn’t completely protect against Lyme disease… The vaccine is most effective only after 3 shots… Three shots provided about 80% protection… Only healthy people aged 15 to 70 participated, so the vaccine isn’t approved for anyone younger than 15 or older than 70, or for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis or certain heart conditions…”
Lyme expert, Dr. David Volkman from SUNY Stony Brook, stated:
"Vaccines are an extremely important tool for protecting against infectious diseases, and Lyme vaccination is no exception. Several other vaccines to prevent Lyme Disease are being developed and may eventually make human infection quite rare. The new vaccine is a promising step in that direction. But for now, vaccination against Lyme disease doesn’t make sense for most people. Although studies have shown that the vaccine can prevent Lyme disease in a majority of cases, there are several reasons you many not need or want to be vaccinated:
1) The Lyme vaccine involves more shots than most other vaccines. The timing of the 3 shots is also important…
2) We don’t yet know how long those 3 shots provide protection. It’s likely that the vaccine’s effects will wane, and that you’ll need booster shots in the second and third years after the initial series of shots to maintain immunity indefinitely. Moreover, we don’t know the long-term effects of repeated doses of the Lyme vaccine.” [sound familiar??!!]
3) The vaccine may not be safe for people at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis…
4) Being vaccinated may give you a false sense of security. Even after you’ve had all three shots, you still need to take the normal precautions against Lyme disease because the vaccine isn’t 100% effective…
5) Only people aged 15 to 70 participated in the clinical trials on which FDA approval was based, so we don’t know if it works (and it isn’t approved) for anyone younger or older. Unfortunately, almost a quarter of the people infected are children…
6) Being educated to recognize Lyme disease is far better protection than the vaccine, and it is important even if you are vaccinated…
"Because it’s usually recognized and treated early enough to avoid any long-term problems, and because there are so many unknowns about the new vaccine, I recommend that most people think twice before being vaccinated." (Reported in Health News, February 1, 1999)
Dr. Volkman then goes on to say who should be vaccinated—those who spend a lot of time outdoors, landscape and utility workers in high-risk areas. If you live in or visit such areas, but aren’t outdoors a lot, he suggests talking with your doctor. However, “…You’ll still have to be vigilant about your children who are at greatest risk for infection but can’t yet be vaccinated. And remember that even if you are vaccinated, you need to take the same precautions as always.”
The March 26, 1999, issue of The Medical Letter(New Rochelle, NY) told of the first human vaccine for prevention of Lyme Disease was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in patients 15-70: “The highest incidence is in people who live, work or walk in grassy or wooded areas… Untreated, symptoms may last for weeks to months… A single treatment with antibiotics cures 90% or more of patients with early disease. The Lyme vaccine is made from a recombinant outer surface protein… A 20-month double-blind, randomized trial in about 11,000 people 15 to 70 years old... 3 injections were 100% effective in preventing asymptomatic infection… Antibody levels, which rose with vaccination, by 8 months after the 3rd injection had fallen to near the lower limit of protective levels… the tick season usually begins in April… Lyme Disease vaccine is effective and has been well-tolerated, but its long-term safety is worrisome, and antibiotics are generally effective in treating early disease and preventing complications. How long vaccination remains protective is unknown; antibody levels suggest that frequent boosters many be necessary. Use of this vaccine should be sharply limited.”
In the May-June, 2002, issue of the FDA Consumer, an update stated that “Manufacturer Discontinues Only Lyme Disease Vaccine”: “The world’s only vaccine to prevent Lyme disease is being discontinued because of poor demand, according to the product’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, N.C. The FDA licensed LYMErix in December, 1998, to prevent Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Initially, hundreds of thousands of people received the vaccine. However, sales plummeted after highly publicized reports that some users suffered arthritis-like symptoms, muscle pain and other ailments following vaccination. GlaxoSmithKline says that it is not discontinuing the product because of safety issues. The manufacturer maintains that the scientific record remains clear that the vaccine is safe and effective. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that it found no unexpected safety problems with LYMErix after reviewing the data.”
The Clinical Advisor, June, 2008, discussed “New guidelines issued for Lyme disease” by Carl Sherman. “For the first time since 2000, the Infectious Diseases Society of American has revised its recommendations for managing and preventing the infection… it confirms and strengthens earlier recommendations for antibiotic treatment, adds a section on prophylaxis, and addresses in more detail the question of post-Lyme syndrome.” The new Guidelines are available at: www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/508667.
A booklet that I think may be helpful is published by Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. www.LymePa.org. April, 2008 was the printing of the 5th edition of “Lyme Disease and associated diseases THE BASICS: A plain-language introduction to tick-borne diseases” written by Douglas W. Fearn.
Some people seem to have been helped by the Ondamed machine, www.ondamed.net. It is biofeedback (not covered by most insurance). It was invented in Germany. If you Google it, you will find a lot of descriptions and explanations.
The history of Lyme Disease and the Lyme disease vaccine are interesting to follow and to see how “they” think and how the issue is reported. Interesting that in February, 1999, Health News stated that the vaccine was 80% effective, yet in March, 1999, the Medical Letter stated the vaccine was 100% effective (3 doses). How are we to believe such different information and make a good decision? The vaccine, however, was different from virtually all other vaccines in that from the beginning it was not promoted for everyone and people were cautioned to “think twice” before getting it; also, emphasis was continually on being educated on how to dress to avoid ticks and how to spot one.
The vaccine was discontinued primarily because of “poor demand.” The real reason for that was because the vaccine really couldn’t be mandated by State legislatures (because the disease happens basically in a geographical location – woods, etc. – and relatively few people are exposed – those who live, work and visit there and landscapers, golfers, etc). Therefore, the vaccine manufacturer couldn’t be protected from lawsuits. (As required under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act, the vaccine must be mandated in order to protect the manufacturers and doctors.) However, should the day come when vaccine promoters can overcome the geographical locations of the disease, they will surely push for it to be mandated. Such is vaccine history.
Bonnie P. Franz