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Movie Producer of Documentary Under Our Skin Calls Out CDC Spokesman on Errors About Lyme Disease

In the last year, the CDC's spokesperson for Lyme disease, Kevin Griffith, MD, MPH, has provided inaccurate information to the media on several occasions. I urgently request that the CDC provide him with the correct data before he is interviewed on the national television show, THE DOCTORS, on Friday, March 27, 2009.

Releasing dated and inaccurate Lyme disease epidemiological data, especially when cases are rising at a rate of 37% per year, can lead to underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis of true Lyme cases. I'm sure that you're as concerned as I am about providing health care providers with the most accurate information available. Below I've listed the instances where the CDC has released inaccurate Lyme information.

June 9, 2008
Bad Lyme Bug Spreading
www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=90135

"CDC medical epidemiologist Kevin Griffith, MD, MPH, says that while Lyme disease has been reported in nearly every state, 10 mostly Northeastern states account for 92% of cases."

Corrections:

  • Lyme cases have been reported in every state [1]
  • 3 of the top-ten Lyme states are NOT Northeastern states (WI, MN, VA).
  • It's important to note that Lyme disease is no longer a 13-colonies problem; a newly discovered invasive strain of Lyme, as well as other tick-borne coinfections, are spreading rapidly across adjoining states. [1][2][3]

"Although the 20,000 cases reported to the CDC in 2006 were fewer than the 23,000 cases reported in 2005, Griffith says the true number of cases is probably larger."

Corrections:

  • The 23,000 cases reported for 2005 is two years old. The new data: 27,444 cases, a 37% increase from 2006 to 2007. [1]
  • To say that "the true number of cases is probably larger" is irresponsibly misleading. According to the CDC, "cases are "under-reported by 6- to 12-fold." [4]
  • It's important to educate health care providers that these case numbers are low, in part, because the required two-tiered Lyme testing protocol for CDC surveillance misses 75% of positive Lyme cases. Lyme is clinical diagnosis, and should be based on symptoms and test results together. [5]

"The good news, he says, is that there's been a drop in the most severe, late-stage manifestations of Lyme disease. He attributes this to doctors identifying the disease -- and beginning treatment -- sooner now than in the earlier years of the epidemic."

Corrections:

Where is the data supporting this statement? The CDC doesn't collect data on late-stage Lyme, except for the most seriously ill patients with antibodies in their CSF serum, a marker with only about a 5% sensitivity. There is no insurance code for late-stage or chronic Lyme, so insurance companies don't collect this data either.

Only 35-68% Lyme patients present with a bullseye rash.[6][7] But up to 40% develop neurologic involvement of either the peripheral or central nervous system.[8] The CDC's and the allied IDSA's overemphasis on the rash and denial of many common neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative symptoms are resulting in diagnoses and a future epidemic of late stage disease. (New CDC criteria says "Headache, fatigue, paresthesia, or mildly stiff neck alone are not criteria for neurologic involvement.")

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  1. www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/ld_rptdLymeCasesbyState.htm
  2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18598631
  3. www.lymediseaseassociation.org/CDCCases2007ver6.pdf
  4. CDC MMWR Report 2004 53(17);365-369. "cases are "under-reported by 6- to 12-fold" www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5317a4.htm
  5. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16207966
  6. Stricker RB et al: Lyme disease without erythema migrans: cause for concern?; Am J Med 2003; 115:72
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme Disease USA, 20012002. Morb. Mortal. Wkly Rep. 53(17), 365369 (2004).
  8. Fallon, BA, Nields, JA. Lyme disease: a neuropsychiatric illness. Am Journal of Psychiatry 1994 151: 1571-1583

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