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By Justin Guinup, Product Marketing Manager/Medical

On July 18, 1976, The New York Times ran a front-page story about a new type of arthritis found in Lyme, CT. It was on the bottom second column, and took up less than a quarter of the page, barely noticeable against the top news of the day, which included the opening ceremonies of the Montreal Summer Olympics, the conclusion of a hospital workers strike, and the return of 26 children kidnapped from a school bus three days earlier in Chowchilla, CA.

Experts at the Yale University Medical School called the disease “Lyme Arthritis,” and said it was caused by a virus from an insect or tick. The article went on to cite several cases of adults and children stricken with this mysterious disease, many of whom lived on wooded, country roads outside of the more densely populated town centers.

“Lyme arthritis” is known today as Lyme disease, and as would be discovered later, is a tick-borne bacterial disease. In the United States, incidents of the disease are rising steadily, from 11,700 in 1995 to 30,000 in 2009. Most researchers agree that the actual number of infections is five or ten times higher. Geographically, Lyme disease is especially prevalent in the Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The cause and symptoms of Lyme disease are these, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash called erythema migrans.

Lyme disease is treated with a two- to three-week course of oral antibiotics and many patients recover fully. Left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the heart, joints, and nervous system. While lab testing is possible, the disease is diagnosed based on symptoms such as the skin rash and the possibility of exposure to ticks. That said, up to 25% of patients never develop the skin rash, making Lyme disease difficult to detect.

The Lyme disease treatment debate
Treatment guidelines published by the Infectious Disease Society of America (ISDA) for Lyme disease are controversial. The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society say the current guidelines for antibiotic use is not enough to squash the infection, and that a significant number of patients who go on to develop chronic Lyme disease. The ISDA cites the dangers of long-term antibiotic use and that there is no convincing published scientific data to support the existence of chronic Lyme disease.

How libraries can help  
The best defense against Lyme disease is prevention and education. Libraries can help by advocating preventive measures against ticks, especially in warmer months (April through September, when ticks are much more active). Avoiding exposure to ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. When in tick-infected areas, experts recommend the use of tick repellent such as DEET, frequent tick checks, and to promptly remove ticks. Another excellent preventative is to landscape the area around your home carefully, and maintain tree pruning (see photo at top).

To support your campaign, the CDC has prepared a Lyme disease tool kit, freely available to the public in English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.

ProQuest also has numerous sources, like ProQuest Family Health and ProQuest Medical Complete, accessible to researchers at all levels, on this important topic. The eLibrary database includes a thoughtfully organized Lyme disease research topic page.  You’ll also find several articles and evidence-based data in ProQuest health and medical and general reference databases, not to mention numerous ebooks in ebrary and EBL.


Brody, Jane E. "A Threat in a Grassy Stroll: Lyme Disease." The New York Times .Jul 15 2008. ProQuest. Web. 8 July 2014.

Centers for Disease Control. Lyme disease home page, 23 June 2014. Web. 7 July 2014

Harrar, Sari. "The Facts of Lyme." Good Housekeeping 05 2014: 127. ProQuest. Web. 7 July 2014.

"Lyme disease." ProQuest Research Topics. 24 Jul. 2013. eLibrary. Web. 07 Jul. 2014.

“Lyme disease." Magill's Medical Guide. 4th Rev. ed. 2008. ebrary. Web. 07 Jul. 2014.

Pfeiffer, Mary B. "Lyme Disease: Dutchess Leads Nation in Cases." The Poughkeepsie Journal Aug 18 2012. ProQuest. Web. 7 July 2014.

Renseberger, Boyce. "A New Type of Arthritis found in Lyme." The New York Times Jul 18 1976: 1.   ProQuest. 7 July 2014.

Specter, Michael. "THE LYME WARS." The New Yorker Jul 01 2013: 24,n/a. ProQuest. Web. 7 July 2014.

(Photo at top courtesy of CDC publication "Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station's Tick Management Handbook." Home page photo from CDC website page Lyme Disease Transmission.)

04 Sep 2014

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