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Physician Pushes For Lyme Disease Vaccine

(Adult deer tick.  File photo by Scott Bauer, USDA)

(Adult deer tick. File photo by Scott Bauer, USDA)

Pat Loeb Pat Loeb
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CBS Philly (con't)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)--A vaccine for Lyme disease, is it time?

The CDC generally reports about 30,000 Lyme cases a year but after a recent conference on the disease, which is spread through the bite of a tick, it concluded that Lyme cases are drastically under-reported and the actual number is probably 300,000 cases.

Considering that virtually all of the cases occur in 13 states, it makes the odds of contracting the disease unacceptably high, according to Wistar Institute Physician Dr. Stanley Plotkin.

Plotkin says, “Lyme disease is not trivial. It may cause cardiac symptoms, that is to say a heart block so that the rhythm is disturbed. It can cause meningitis, encephalitis and arthritis. It can produce a sort of chronic fatigue syndrome.”

There was a vaccine in 1998 but consumers didn’t “bite” then.

The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, discontinued it in 2002 and a spokesman says it has no plans to resume production.

Plotkin believes consumers are more aware of the dangers now and should let drug companies know if they want, and would use, a vaccine.

The CDC says it supports development of a new one but in the meantime it urges people to use bug repellent and check for ticks after being outdoors.