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Bring Back the Lyme Vaccine (op/ed)

In August 2005 my son Alec, then 39 years old, collapsed into unconsciousness while walking his dog in the suburbs of Philadelphia. By the time he arrived at the hospital, his heart rate had slowed to 30 beats per minute. Fortunately, an experienced physician recognized that Alec was having a cardiac complication of Lyme infection. Installation of a pacemaker and an infusion of antibiotics saved his life.

Each year there are more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But last month, the C.D.C. announced that the real number of annual infections was closer to 300,000.

Alec had one of the most serious consequences of a Lyme infection, but the microbe can also lead to neurological illnesses like meningitis and encephalitis and, more commonly, fatigue, arthritis and rashes. But the symptoms can be hard to spot. Indeed, days before he became gravely ill, Alec consulted a physician because of a rash, but because it did not appear in a bull’s-eye shape, Lyme disease was not suspected. (It is a common misconception that the Lyme disease rash always appears this way.)

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