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Voices: How Lyme Disease Infects Town Life

This article is more than 9 years old.

[Note: Live in Lincoln? Have a case of Lyme disease to report? Go to the interactive map here]

It's a cardinal rule of writing that you're supposed to "show, not tell," and the same is true in radio. But as a self-indulgent blogger, I'd like to just hammer for a moment on the central point I tried to convey in today's lead-off piece in WBUR's Lyme disease series.

And that is, that though Lyme disease has been around for quite a while in coastal areas of Massachusetts, it has spread in the last few years across the entire state, most notably into the Metro West/495/128 region. And as it spreads, Lyme — and the fear of Lyme — permeates the fabric of our communities, changing our lives. (And for the very unlucky, ruining their lives, as you'll hear in tomorrow's piece.)

After a recent "tick talk" at the 19th-century Bemis Hall in Lincoln, a few audience members lingered, and I asked them how Lyme disease has affected life in Lincoln — a Metro West town whose Lyme disease burden is clearly heavy but by no means exceptional. A few voices:

Sarah Bishop: "I’m a preschool teacher in town and I’m finding that I’m not taking the children into the woods the way I used to. I’m afraid to even play on our playground. and kids are spending far too much time in front of screens and yet I am afraid to take them back to nature.

"The saddest thing was the other day, I heard one of my kids say — I had called them to come back and they said, 'Oh, yeah, that’s right, we can’t go into the woods, there are ticks.' And I thought, 'Ohhh, but I want you to go into the woods and I want you to get lost there and explore there, and create things there,' and yet I’m scared to death to take them there. And I actually did pick a tick off one of my preschoolers last week, it was in the corner of his eye, just in the fold of the skin. It’s awful.

Janice Phillips: “I live on the south side of Lincoln, and everyone on my road has had it at least once.

And if you do any gardening at all, it’s a serious problem, and I’m a gardener. It’s tough. So we do what we can in terms of preventing. We spray our shoes with permethrin and we tuck our socks over our pants legs and examine ourselves every day. And take prophylactic doxycycline if we find an embedded tick. And you just hope for the best.”

Ruth Adams: "A lot of people in Lincoln have been ill, as well as their pets, and I think it affects everybody. We’re very aware of it in Lincoln. It seems to be a problem for chronic Lyme disease, people are getting it more than once or maybe they never got rid of it. One of my dogs died two years ago of it. So I think it's a very serious disease. I think it used to be swept under the carpet a lot by medicine, I can honestly say that, and I think now it's coming out a little bit and we're more aware. There's more education. It's really necessary.

We’re very active. Because so many people in town have had Lyme disease, really have had an active case, or their children, or their grandparents."

This program aired on June 25, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.