With the onset of spring comes the lure of the Great Outdoors, and locals are blessed with a multitude of options for spectacular hikes. But nothing taints the prospect of a nice walk in the woods like the knowledge that infected deer ticks are waking up hungry, lurking alongside every trail waiting for someone to bite. If you haven’t yet tested positive for Lyme disease yourself, you certainly know someone who has, and probably more than one. You’ve also undoubtedly heard horror stories about people whose Lyme cases didn’t respond to conventional treatment, or morphed into something far worse.
A reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal for three decades and the author of Crazy in America: The Hidden Tragedy of the Criminalized Mentally Ill (2007), Mary Beth Pfeiffer has emerged in the last five years as the nation’s leading investigative reporter on Lyme disease. Her series of articles on the subject, collectively titled “No Small Thing,” has won a slew of journalism awards. Pfeiffer’s exhaustive research has led her to conclude that the medical establishment hasn’t been taking Lyme nearly seriously enough, and that the current protocol for its treatment is in many cases inadequate.
Now Pfeiffer has a new book out, published this month by Island Press, and has several local stops planned in the coming weeks to share the stories that she has gathered. Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change has already garnered critical accolades, including from such environmentalist icons as Jane Goodall and Bill McKibben. The book makes the case that Lyme disease is spreading rapidly around the globe as ticks move into places they could not survive before, infecting half a million people in the US and Europe each year, and untold multitudes in Canada, China, Russia and Australia. Pfeiffer also warns of the emergence of other tickborne illnesses that make Lyme more difficult to diagnose and treat, and that pose their own grave risks.
Lyme is firmly rooted in environmental and health science, relying on more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and dozens of expert interviews. Pfeiffer exposes the failure of government and medicine to prevent rapidly spreading infection, address poor diagnostic tests and help many thousands of patients whose symptoms – body pain, crippling fatigue and neurological, psychiatric and memory issues – can linger long after treatment. She gives voice to patients whose illnesses have been dismissed, to doctors whose treatments have put their licenses in jeopardy and to scientists whose studies strongly suggest that the threat of ticks and Lyme disease has been underestimated and methods to treat it inadequate.
The Golden Notebook, located at 29 Tinker Street in Woodstock, will host a book launch event with Mary Beth Pfeiffer this Sunday, April 15 at 3 p.m. Other upcoming book talks in the Hudson Valley include a stop at the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs on April 29.
The author’s former employer and her alma mater will co-host a Lyme Forum beginning at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, April 17 at the Nelly Goletti Theatre in Marist College’s Student Center, located at 3404 North Road in Poughkeepsie. The forum will feature Mary Beth Pfeiffer along with Dr. Kenneth Liegner of Pawling, Lyme patient Brian Gaucher and Jamie Buss, whose nine-year-old daughter suffers from the disease. Poughkeepsie Journal opinion engagement editor John Penney will moderate the discussion, which will be followed by questions from the audience. The event is free, but space is limited; attendees must register in advance at https://tickets.poughkeepsiejournal.com/e/lyme.
Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change talk with Mary Beth Pfeiffer, Sunday, April 15, 3 p.m., Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock; Lyme Forum, Tuesday, April 17, 6-8 p.m., Nelly Goletti Theatre, Student Center, Marist College, 3404 North Road, Poughkeepsie; https://tickets.poughkeepsiejournal.com/e/lyme.