Monday, April 29, 2013

Lyme disease eradicated - or just the media hysteria?

I noticed two pre-teens emerging from the edge of the woods and heading towards the end of the line for ice cream at a Dairy Queen in Washington Twp., NJ. I remember this well because of what happened next: they both stopped in their tracks and frantically checked themselves for ticks. Relieved none were found, they went to get their ice cream. 

This was circa 2001 and those pre-teens would have been bombarded by media-driven lyme disease hysteria for longer than they could remember. Check for ticks! Wear long pants! Soak every item of clothing in deet. Don't ever leave the house! SmithKline's 1998 introduction of the first lyme disease vaccine shot the media into a frenzy of fear mongering. But then something funny happened - nobody bought the vaccine. Though nearly everyone living in the Northeast knows someone diagnosed with lyme disease, the lyme disease vaccine was quietly discontinued in 2002 for lack of interest in America.

Beware deer ticks and media hype. Image

Now that it's spring, I realized this is the time of year when the media usually starts its barrage of lyme disease prevention stories - but I haven't seen any. In fact, it struck me that I haven't seen the once constant barrage of these stories in a number of years. Has lime disease been eradicated? Or has the media simply moved on since there hasn't been a vaccine to promote?

Now that Baxter is working on a new lyme disease vaccine, we can look forward to a new wave of media hysteria in a year or two.

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