CONGRESSMAN TAKES AIM AT LYME DISEASE IN THE MILITARY

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Press Release

SOURCE: Lyme Disease Association

CONGRESSMAN TAKES AIM AT LYME DISEASE IN THE MILITARY

Lyme Disease Association urges higher education for physicians

ROBBINSVILLE, NJ –- September 16, 2002- Rising concern over debilitating cases of Lyme disease that go undiagnosed has led the Lyme Disease Association (LDA) to initiate a meeting aimed at educating physicians to recognize symptoms of Lyme disease and tick borne maladies. The LDA has the support of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who will host the meeting in Washington DC on September 18th.


"It has come to my attention that the official military treatment for Lyme has taken on a one-size-fits-all approach that is often inappropriate," Congressman Smith said. "Military physicians need to understand that in many cases Lyme cannot be treated in 28 days with a simple antibiotic regimen."

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. It is often difficult to diagnose and to treat. Symptoms include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, severe fatigue and malaise and sometimes, the “bulls-eye” rash. According to the CDC, approximately 16, 000 new cases of Lyme are reported in the U.S. each year, but because of the strictness of reporting guideline, many experts, including the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), believe 90 percent of Lyme infections are not reported. Evidence is also growing that the standard four-week cycle of antibiotic treatment is ineffective, and that the disease requires antibiotic therapy for longer periods of time.
"Our agenda is simply to make the case that Lyme is more than a simple infection with a four-week plan of action," said Congressman Smith. "We want to make sure that our military families get the very best care possible, and additional training and exchanges like the event we have planned on Sept. 18 is an excellent way to get the process started."

Colleen Nicholson is married to an Air Force Captain. She was bitten by a tick four years ago and exhibited all the classic symptoms. Her military physician treated her with a four-week course of antibiotics, and when symptoms persisted she was told she could not possibly still have Lyme. Finally, after several false starts, including unflattering references to her mental stability, Nicholson went off base to consult with a Lyme-literate civilian physician who diagnosed her condition as chronic Lyme and placed her on a regimen of medication that has led to significant improvement.

"I feel like I lost four years of my life," said Nicholson who is a mother of three. "I would have liked to have had more children and been able to do more things with my family. Instead, that time is lost forever and we’ve decided not to have more children in light of my condition.

"Now that I understand what has happened to me, I’ve begun a support group for military families with Lyme, and I’m finding that we all get treated the same, and if we don’t get better in four weeks it’s insinuated that the problem is in our heads."

Congressman Smith’s meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and take place at 2373 Rayburn in Washington, D.C. Attendees will hear from the Congressman and several medical experts in the treatment and affects of Lyme disease. "Military families make tremendous sacrifices every day in the name of freedom," he said. "Ensuring that the care they receive is at least on a par with that received by civilians is the very least we can do."

For Further Information Contact:

Paul Hirsch, Medallion Media, 925-736-0976
Plhirsch30@aol.com

Christi O’Connor, Medallion Media, 415-883-2491
christioc@aol.com

Pat Smith, Lyme Disease Association, 888-366-6611
Lymeliter@aol.com