Science & Technology

Lyme Time

Anti-vaccination victory


There were more than 30,000 probable cases of Lyme disease in the United States in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the cases were concentrated in the Northeast, where the flora and fauna are most hospitable to the ticks that carry the sickness.

Lyme disease can be severe, starting with a rash and escalating to arthritis and even partial paralysis. Luckily, there is a vaccine. Unluckily, that vaccine is currently only available to pets. So while dogs in Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania can get pretty good protection against Lyme at the point of a needle, their humans are forced to resort to tall socks and prayer when they want to venture into tall grass during tick season.

The vaccine works by encouraging the body to produce antibodies that kill the spiral shaped bacterium that causes Lyme. When it was released to the human public in 1998, it was hugely popular. But an outcry soon followed, with a few vocal recipients claiming that the vaccine gave them arthritis-a side effect that didn't show up significantly in the clinical trials. Vaccine makers, shy of bad publicity and lawsuits, pulled the vaccine off the market.

Since that time, Lyme disease has been on the rise in the U.S., and people frantic to avoid the disease have started going to extreme lengths. "I'm personally aware of individuals, who in desperation have gone to veterinarians and remarkably convinced the veterinarian to inject them with the canine vaccine," Mayo clinic vaccinologist Gregory Poland told Boston radio station WBUR.