Bush was treated for Lyme disease, White House says

Action taken in 2006 after finding of rash that indicated illness

August 09, 2007|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- President Bush was treated for Lyme disease a year ago after developing a circular rash characteristic of the ailment, the White House announced yesterday.

Spread through the bite of infected ticks, the disease, if unchecked, can lead to arthritis, numbness, paralysis, fatigue and memory problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But when the problem is detected early, patients usually make a full recovery after a course of antibiotics, health professionals say.

"What we know about this disease is that early intervention is so much more effective than later intervention," said John P. Krick, head of epidemiology and disease control programs for the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. A summary of Bush's current health, released with the results of his recent annual physical, said that last August a red rash with a lighter center, called erythema migrans, was "consistent with early, localized Lyme disease" and was treated "with complete resolution and without recurrence."

The White House did not disclose where Bush might have been exposed to Lyme disease.

"It's not uncommon for him to be mountain biking and receive a tick bite," said White House deputy press secretary Scott M. Stanzel. He said the incident was being disclosed now, a year after it happened, because the White House discloses the president's minor medical conditions only when it releases the annual report.

Stanzel said doctors decided not to do blood tests to determine for certain that Bush had Lyme disease because the treatment worked and he never progressed to other symptoms, the Associated Press reported.

Stanzel said the president discovered the rash - which appeared on Bush's left leg below the knee - but the spokesman would not specify the treatment Bush received, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.

An avid cyclist, Bush frequently rides on trails in Maryland, often leaving the White House on weekends for exercise at a Secret Service training facility in Beltsville or in the woods at Camp David.

The number of reported cases of Lyme disease has been rising in Maryland, which had the nation's eighth-highest incidence of the disease, with 1,235 reported cases, in 2005, the CDC said.

Since his treatment, Bush has become more vigilant about looking for the tiny deer ticks that spread the disease, Stanzel said, and he "does use bug spray and does personal tick sweeps after being outdoors."

Doctors performing the annual physical found the 61-year-old president to be in the "superior" fitness category for men his age, with a low risk of heart disease. Over the past year, Bush's weight dropped from 196 pounds to 192 pounds.

david.nitkin@baltsun.com

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