A Weekly Standard tipper sent in a campaign mailer from northern Virginia titled: “Romney-Ryan: Doing More To Fight the Spread of Lyme Disease.” It’s a little more tightly focused than most campaign mailers, maybe, but I admire them for thinking about the local angle: The D.C. suburbs are filthy with ticks, and Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are a huge public health problem.
But the details are delicious. The mailer promises that Romney and Ryan will:
Ensure that government agencies have an open line of communication and work with patients, researchers, doctors, and businesses in an objective, comprehensive manner.
Encourage increased options for the treatment of Lyme Disease and provide local physicians with protection from lawsuits to ensure they can treat the disease with the aggressive antibiotics that are required.
Here’s a translation: Forget the science, just channel your legitimate fear of a dangerous disease and your misguided fear of the medical establishment into a vote for us.
As a Slate story pointed out years ago, chronic Lyme disease—not the persistent effects of a long-term bacterial infection but a collection of mysterious symptoms—has powerful supporters. Advocates for the diagnosis tend to blame the medical establishment for not taking them seriously enough. In 2008, the attorney general of Connecticut investigated the Infectious Diseases Society of America, a 50-year-old organization with more than 9,000 physician and scientist members, for misrepresenting the science of Lyme disease. Not to be outdone, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell assembled a governor’s task force on Lyme disease. He appointed Michael Farris as its chair. Ferris is a lawyer and the chancellor of Patrick Henry College, aka God’s Harvard, whose motto is “For Christ and for Liberty” and whose “Statement of Faith” holds that the “Bible in its entirety” is “inerrant.”. The school isn’t known for its biology department.
The task force’s report (PDF) makes some reasonable suggestions. People should be warned about the dangers of ticks. They should shower and do a tick-check after walking in tick habitat. We should shoot more deer. But the task force seems to have bought into the conspiracy theory that the infectious disease establishment is maliciously interfering with proper treatment. It states: “There is no scientific basis for concluding that 30 days or less of antibiotics is sufficient treatment for every case of Lyme disease.” Again, tell it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another treatment point is telling: “We received substantial testimony from lay witnesses that they had been successfully treated with long-term antibiotics.” Pro tip: the plural of anecdote is not data. Just because someone signed up to address a public portion of the task force meeting does not mean their understanding or explanation of their own medical care is accurate or relevant.
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