TOUCHED BY LYME: Auburn Journal editorializes about Lyme disease
According to this northern California newspaper, “The misdiagnosis and lack of accurate counting of those with Lyme disease needs to stop now.”
Auburn, California is a town of about 13,000 people, a 40-minute drive from Sacramento on the way to Lake Tahoe. It’s the seat of Placer County, has a proud Gold Rush history, and is the home of the Auburn State Recreation Area (famous in some circles for holding the annual Western States Endurance Run and other internationally known endurance events.)
The Auburn area is where former park ranger Jordon Fisher Smith was bitten by tick and contracted Lyme disease. You’ll remember him as the narrator of the Lyme documentary UNDER OUR SKIN.
Throughout my years of Lyme disease advocacy, I have heard from many people in the Auburn area who have caught Lyme and are looking for help. Support groups in the greater Auburn area have a combined email list of more than 100 people. And the local vector control agency keeps finding ticks that are infected with Lyme disease.
So it always galls me when the official “count” of Lyme disease in places like Placer County lists only one or two cases a year, if that. Yes, we in the Lyme community know that for lots of controversial reasons, the CDC, state and public health officials grievously under count Lyme cases. But that can be a hard concept to communicate to journalists, who are used to giving credence to health figures from the government.
So, I was amazed and heartened by the way the Auburn Journal has been covering Lyme disease. Here’s what came down last week:
The newspaper ran a story about a local Lyme support group leader, Virginia Ward, and others who are educating their community about Lyme disease. It was a positive article with good information. However, because it quoted a local official as saying the county had only one case of Lyme in 2011, I felt this fact needed to be put in context. So, I wrote a letter pointing that out, which the paper printed. You can read it here.
I figured that would end the Placer County Lyme coverage for a while. But then, somebody sent me a copy of an editorial cartoon that ran a few days later. (I don’t have access to it in digital form yet, but I think the scanned image tells the story.) Pretty impressive, yes?
But that’s not the end of the story!
Next, the paper published an editorial under the title: “Don’t dismiss signs of Lyme disease.” And here’s the opening paragraph:
“It’s a little bug with a life changing bite. Ticks carrying Lyme disease have debilitated many. Yet those who are bitten and infected often go uncounted or misdiagnosed for years. The misdiagnosis and lack of accurate counting of those with Lyme disease needs to stop now in public and private medical communities.”
The editorial then proceeds to take the medical community to task for not paying adequate attention to Lyme disease: “This is especially important for those practicing in communities like Auburn, where many residents are active on trails that are filled with ticks carrying the disease.”
It ends with an admonishment for medical professionals to start taking the disease more seriously: “The silent, undiagnosed community of victims with Lyme disease shouldn’t have to suffer silently anymore.”
Kudos to this newspaper for looking past the “official” story that counts only one case of Lyme per year in Auburn and for recognizing that tick-borne diseases are taking a toll in Placer County. We hope the local medical community is paying attention.
TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, LymeDisease.org’s VP for Education and Outreach. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.