17. Interview with Mary Beth Pfeiffer, author of Lyme: the First Epidemic of Climate Change

Sarah Cormode and Mary Beth Pfeiffer in Episode 17 of Looking at Lyme.

In today’s podcast, Sarah talks about ticks, Lyme disease and climate change with investigative reporter Mary Beth Pfeiffer. She lives in New York State, an area of the US which is highly endemic for Lyme disease, and has been investigating this disease for the past eight years. Her search for answers revealed that there was not only a denial from the US CDC and Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) regarding what patients were telling them about Lyme disease but also a disdain for this patient population. Mary Beth describes how her own book, Lyme: the First Epidemic of Climate Change, evolved out of her interest in Lyme disease and her passion about climate change. Mary Beth describes some of the research that shows how tick populations are migrating into both higher altitudes and latitudes (northward into Canada). 

“Lyme disease…has been framed as an illness that is easy to diagnose, easy to treat, easy to cure. It’s none of those things.”

Mary Beth Pfeiffer

Mary Beth has seen how many patients who have unknowingly contracted Lyme disease become very ill from the disease. She points out that often doctors are not considering Lyme disease as a possibility, and that even if they are tested, the tests may not detect the disease. She urges people to be vigilant in checking themselves and their children for ticks after spending time outdoors.

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Did you know that Covid and Lyme disease have many similarities? Mary Beth fills us in on how there has been a lot of conflicting information and advice about both diseases including how it is spread, problems with testing, etc. Some changes are being made but there is an urgent need for much more to be done. Mary Beth explains that although the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group in the US is working on this problem, some members of the working group still don’t believe that Lyme disease is a significant problem. She also references a current lawsuit in Texas against several researchers involved in testing and treatment, the IDSA and several US insurance companies (link in podcast notes). Thank you Mary Beth for an eye opening interview and for reminding us to stay safe in the outdoors!

Episode resources

Sarah Cormode and Mary Beth Pfeiffer in Episode 17 of Looking at Lyme.

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