Pfeiffer’s “Lyme”: a nerve wracking wake-up call - BlueStone Press
June 18, 2018
Book review

Pfeiffer’s “Lyme”: a nerve wracking wake-up call

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Does anyone else remember life before Lyme disease, when we could roll down grassy slopes, meander through meadows, and frolic in leaf piles without fear? When every outdoor excursion didn’t call for a strip search of every family member, and finding a tick was as simple as saying “yuck,” removing it and going on about your business?

That day is long gone. Most everyone you meet in the Rondout Valley, Hudson Valley and beyond has a Lyme disease story; just about everyone has been infected at some point. The lucky ones among us experienced acute symptoms like the famous bullseye rash or something that felt like a bad flu, went immediately to the doctor, were treated with antibiotics, and got on with our lives. For far too many people, though, something as insignificant-seeming as a tick bite that may not even have been noticed at the time has led to horrid and life-changing consequences, made far worse by the fact that they’re suffering from a disease that very few doctors fully comprehend and even fewer dare to treat against the guidelines handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Health.

How did we get here? How exactly did ticks become so dangerous and this illness so widespread, and why are the health care politics involved so utterly insane? In “Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change,” local author Mary Beth Pfeiffer lays out the big picture. It’s not a pretty one. It’s scary, as a matter of fact, and gives one a feeling of being caught up in an almost irreversible slide toward dystopia, but the truths she is telling are ones we need to know.

Pfeiffer is a meticulous researcher with a gift for story, an expert at digging into facts most people would prefer not to think about. (Her first book, published in 2007, was “Crazy in America: The Hidden Scandal of Our Criminalized Mentally Ill.”) A Poughkeepsie Journal reporter from 1982 to 2015, she knows how to dig and delve and how to lay out the discovered pieces of a puzzle in clear and eminently readable style.

As stated earlier, this is not a pretty story. But those of us who’ve had a brush with Lyme already know that she’s not describing a pretty situation, especially for chronic sufferers who’ve tried desperately to find effective treatment and run head on into the political snafu that surrounds the illness within the medical community.

The results of environmental destruction and adversarial political approaches are not going to get even a little bit better until we demand it, and “Lyme” makes a powerful case for change. Will thousands and thousands of tick bites be enough to awaken a sleeping species? The jury is still out on that, and on whether or not there is still time to mitigate the mess. Meanwhile, this book will absolutely bring you up to speed on the facts of a matter that has long been shrouded in disinformation. In a better world, it would be required reading for every doctor, every doubter, and everyone with any impact on the environment (hey, isn’t that all of us?).

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