A look inside the complicated politics of Lyme disease.
If only. Truth is, cities like Philadelphia, cities with neighborhoods bordering on woods and parks, are ideal habitats for deer ticks. And here's something else to think about: Infection rates peak in June and July when ticks are in the very hungry and teeny-tiny nymph stage, smaller than a poppy seed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the Northeast, approximately 50 percent of ticks carry Lyme disease.
In 2006 the CDC reported that Pennsylvania had the second highest number of reported cases in the country, with people 5 to 9 and 50 to 59 years old infected most frequently.
The number of reported cases across the nation each year has increased 40-fold since the CDC began keeping track in 1982. The CDC estimates real figures are seven to 12 times higher.
Back in the emergency room I was propped up Indian-style in a bed. My excruciating headache was temporarily at bay, thanks to a shot of morphine administered after I blacked out.
It was a relief to breathe again and to realize I wasn't dead. But there was still a golf ball-sized lump lodged in my temple, and I knew the morphine- induced calm was temporary.
I was wheeled out for a CT scan, then for a second one, this time facedown, before being stranded in the hallway on a gurney.
A while later a cocksure doctor strolled in clutching pamphlets on how to stop grinding your teeth. He told me he didn't see anything wrong and that maybe I needed a mouth guard for sleeping.
I don't grind my teeth. I invited him to inspect my un-ground teeth. Appealing to his sense of logic, I asked him why, if I did grind my teeth, would an itchy lump suddenly spring out of my head? Why would my whole body shake?
Jesse, meanwhile, was begging the doctor to run more tests. He kept asking the doctor what he should do back home in two hours when the morphine stopped working. The doctor then ripped me a script for Percocet and sent me home.
I requested another morphine shot for the road, but the doctor wouldn't listen. In his eyes I wasn't capable of testifying on my own behalf.
Despite being so obviously sick, I was turned away. Chided, almost. And practically everyone I know with Lyme disease has a similar story. And here I'd been toiling through a stupid day job just for the health insurance.
I floated through the car ride home, curled up in bed and waited for that one precious, luscious, beautiful shot of mercy to wear off.
Welcome to the twisted, murky underbelly of the Lyme disease wars.
Lyme, the most politicized and contested disease since the emergence of AIDS, is also the fastest-growing infectious illness since AIDS.
The medical establishment debates over almost every aspect of Lyme: the definition, who has it, the odds of catching it, the range of symptoms, its origin and most important, whether it's a chronic condition that persists after 10 to 28 days of antibiotic treatment.
Of course wars rage on two levels: There are white-haired dudes pushing paperwork in offices, and there are the people in the trenches who deal with the fallout.
On high, the Lyme controversy is epitomized by the bitter battle between Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS).
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