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Man with fever, chills and aches in the midst of a flu outbreak turns out to be a very different kind of infection.

“Gabriel Vilchez, the infectious-disease specialist in training, reviewed the chart and examined the patient. He thought that the patient most likely had a tick-borne infection. The hospital had sent off blood to test for the usual suspects in the Northeast: Lyme, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Except for the Lyme test, which was negative, none of the results had come back yet. Vilchez considered that given the patient’s symptoms — and his response to the doxycycline — it would turn out that he’d have one of them.

And yet, the results for tick-borne infections were negative. Vilchez thought about other tick-borne diseases that are not on the usual panel. The most likely was Rocky Mountain spotted fever (R.M.S.F.). The name is a misnomer: R.M.S.F. is much more common in the Smoky Mountains than the Rocky Mountains, and the spotted-fever part, the rash, is not seen in all cases. It’s unusual to acquire the infection in Connecticut but not unheard-of. Vilchez sent off blood to be tested for R.M.S.F. The following day, the patient felt well enough to go home. A couple of days later, he got a call. He had Rocky Mountain spotted fever.”

Sanders, Lisa M.D. “All His Symptoms Pointed Toward the Flu. But the Test Was Negative.” The New York Times Magazine

Source: New York Times Magazine