Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change, by Mary Beth Pfeiffer
“The Great Imitator” is a term used in veterinary medicine to describe Lyme disease due to the myriad of symptoms that can be associated with infection with Borrelia burgdorferi. Professionally, I can confirm that as an equine veterinarian, Lyme disease in horses can indeed present as a shifting leg lameness, or lethargy, or inappetence, or behavioral changes, or sudden aggression, or carditis, or a combination of symptoms. Mary Beth Pfeiffer’s, Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change, provides a well-researched cautionary review of the advent of tick-born diseases worldwide. Climate change is, true, one factor but the imbalance of intermediary hosts (rodents, deer), the ecological changes that favor disease spread (fragmenting habitats in suburbification), and intercontinental movement of people and animals all favor this rapid spread of disease. Lyme disease is now a global phenomenon, seen in parts of the world which has, up to now, had no record of cases, including Australia, Alaska and northern Europe. Discussed also are other tick transmitted illnesses including Powassan virus, Bartonellosis, and Babesiosis, and the horrifying evidence that coinfection (more than one pathogen present in the same tick) can actually potentiate transmission of multiple diseases. Disturbingly, because of the politics of current approved treatment protocols (read insurance disputes) combined with imperfect testing protocols, Pfeiffer recounts numerous actual human cases where treatment is delayed or denied often with tragic results. (Doubly disturbing due to the well-proven fact that early treatment with antibiotics is an effective treatment in the vast majority of cases.) This well-researched (although at times technical) book is an important read, especially for people living in the Northeast, as it helps to provide the information you might one day need to become a health advocate for yourself or the people you love.