‘Chronic Lyme’ hornet nest still buzzing at physician convention in San Diego

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(Photo courtesy Pixabay)

I had no idea the hornet’s nest surrounding the “chronic Lyme” debate still was buzzing. Apparently, it is.

I attended, “In Your Back Yard and Getting Closer: Vector Borne Illnesses.” The presenter, Dr. Stephen Gluckman, spent a huge chunk of time informing his colleagues why they should not prescribe antibiotics to individuals who claim to have an active Lyme infection but do not.

He said patients will show up complaining of “body aches and mental cloudiness” and claim it’s a Lyme infection.

Some will insist they even have tested positive for certain antibodies which may indicate a Lyme infection. There is no certain test for Lyme disease.

“The mistake is explaining the antibodies created those symptoms (they are reporting),” he said. “It’s the wrong diagnosis. Lyme is a very easy bug to treat if you have it. And you can catch it again. But it won’t be because your original bug was improperly treated and you relapsed.”

When a patient presents with a red patch that can be a bug bite, be sure to ask how long the spot has been there. Sometimes red spots go away rather quickly, Gluckman said.

Was the patient in the woods or in some other location where they could have encountered a tick or other vector? If so, for example in cases where the tick was seen and even removed, and brought it to the doctor, or removed by the doctor themselves, what diseases does that species of tick carry? Is it even a tick that carries Lyme? Focus on what diseases the species carries. Not all ticks carry the same bugs, pardon the pun. It’s very important to bring the bug into the doctor’s office, if possible.

“Don’t grease up the tick” tying to remove it, Gluckman warned. It allows the tick to hold on even tighter.

When Dr. Gluckman will prescribe antibiotics

“Yes, I’m beating this to death, which I am trying to do, and hopefully successfully,” Gluckman said. He spent at least half of the 90-minute session explaining there is a growing movement of people who believe they have active Lyme infections even though they do not test positive for it, at least not using tests that are acceptable to the medical establishment.

I waded into this “chronic Lyme story” mess almost three years ago, in 2014. First I wrote this piece for HealthlineNews, originally headlined, “No, you don’t have chronic Lyme disease.” Hate mail poured in from around the world. For months.

Then I wrote this piece about Lyme becoming the topic of debate in Washington. In a nutshell, the truth is that this movement has gained quite a bit of momentum.

But the pro-chronic Lyme people have been venomous and nasty. One woman even suggested my father really had Lyme disease and not a rare brain disease at all.

Wow.

Gluckman said he believes these patients who claim to be chronic Lyme sufferers need to be affirmed regardless. “I tell them I know they are suffering and I hope they get the proper treatment. But it’s not Lyme.

“It’s tricky when you start treating people with no objective evidence of disease.”

Gluckman said there are cases where he sees potential bug bites and is not hesitant to use antibiotics. This most often happens when people report flu-like symptoms in the summertime. This is because there is no summertime flu and depending on where a patient may have been they could have been bitten by an insect, some of which carry diseases with poor or even fatal outcomes the longer the delay in treatment.

 

From AIDS to Zika: Dr. Fauci has served six presidents. Great keynote address.

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National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci has served six presidents over the course of his 33 years in that position.

Not only is his tenure staggering, but so is its framework: He has been our country’s infectious diseases chief from the first day of HIV.

Getting to hear Fauci speak to thousands of doctors Thursday during the opening ceremony and keynote address of the American College of Physicians Internal Medicine meeting was incredible. More than 800 doctors alone are attending this conference from foreign countries, not to mention the hundreds, even thousands of doctors from around the U.S. who are here, most internal medicine specialists. The grand ballroom literally was packed elbow to elbow, seat to seat, people standing, lining the walls.

Fauci is an amazing speaker. He has a way of getting straight to the point and often offers little tips. Tomorrow, he said, an announcement will be coming out of Washington regarding phase II trials for a Zika vaccine. So maybe I just broke that news, right here!

Thus, the title of his address this morning was, “From AIDS to Zika.”

“Extraordinary parts in your life that you never forget,” is how he remembers the first reports of AIDS trickling in, long before we even had a name for the disease. “I was sitting in my office at the NIH clinical center and this came in front of my desk, this report, the MMRW (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reporting five gay men from Los Angeles with the strange situation of being otherwise healthy, also strange, curiously all gay men, with (pneumonia).

“I thought this was just a fluke, didn’t make much sense. A month later, when the second MMWR came about, now 26 men, not only from L.A., but from San Francisco, New York, and not just with (pneumonia), but also Kaposi’s sarcoma and other opportunistic infections.”

Little did Fauci know that he had come into one of the most powerful medical positions in the world just at a time when the world needed him. “And it was at that point that I really turned around the entire direction of my career and start to study this extraordinary disease,” Fauci said. “Not every outbreak was (or is) going to have global importance. This is one that was not perceived (as such) at the time, but actually did.”

Zika a new threat as mosquito transmitted or sexual transmissions multiply

Fauci admitted that Zika is now being transmitted in ways other than anyone who ever had traveled to a place where Zika previously had been present. He said “a perfect storm of global health mishaps occurred” to create the Zika crisis. He said details of a phase II Zika vaccine will come out of Washington tomorrow. He said development of the vaccine is an urgent matter.

“There’s basically not health care system in those countries and a distrust of authority,” Fauci said of Liberia, Sierre Leone, and New Guinea, where most of the 28,000 cases of Zika and 11,000 deaths have occurred.

“There are more doctors on K Street (in Washington D.C.) than in the entire country of Liberia,” Fauci said. “Now that is very difficult to swallow, but it is actually the truth.”

“Free day” in San Diego offers surprise around every corner, giggly Mich. doctor

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I declared today “free day.”

What a great day.

How could anyone who lives here ever want to work?

I have walked around San Diego, popped into restaurants and pubs, talked to strangers, talked A LOT with the people in the service industry (that’s how you find out everything) but also had fun with…. the doctors!

One extremely giggly doctor riding up in the elevator with me just now declared that she’s a “cheapskate internal medicine doctor from Grand Rapids, Mich.” I chuckled. I told her the head of the chamber of commerce in Grand Rapids, Rick Baker, came from the Quad-Cities (to which she said: “What’s Quad-Cities?” I’ve heard that at least seven times already today)

After she proclaimed her cheapskated-ness, I admitted I’m not a doctor, I just play one online. But seriously, I said I am from the (WHERE’S THAT!) and am just a lowly reporter. I could not ever bring myself to pay $2,200 to stay one week in the official convention hotel on a work trip.

“I’d never pay it because I’m a cheap Midwesterner!” the giggly doctor proclaimed.

New friends on every corner

I met this very nice man and his lovely poodle.

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I met a girl from Texas whose company I enjoyed all afternoon. She told me all about downtown San Diego.

Every who lives here loves it 100 percent. It’s stunning. It’s over the top. It’s beautiful. It’s clean. It’s safe. It’s fun. It’s happy.

It’s awesome.

Well, gotta be up by 5 and to the convention center by 7 a.m. for my first workshop of the day: “What’s Hot in STDs?”

You won’t want to miss it.

Hotels.com deal on my San Diego digs for doctors conference this week a sizzler

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It’s hardly a secret that San Diego is one of the most beautiful, safest, and cleanest cities in our entire nation. But apparently, I forgot about that!

The second I landed at midnight last night (I am three for three for landing at midnight on all my flights this year, part of the so-called “Rainbow Tour” as I’ve dubbed it), I was impressed. Even from the air, San Diego has a special twinkle. Once inside the airport, I could not believe how far and above it ranks over the many other U.S. airports I have been to recently. Clean, user-friendly, the whole nine yards.

When I walked out the front doors after getting my bag, I had a most awesome chuckle. About 20 Prius Taxis (Prii?), all about the same year as mine, were lined up. But, I was waiting for the free shuttle to the Ramada Gaslamp District (former historic St. James Hotel).

OK, now. Listen up, bargain travelers! I got 7 nights at this hotel for UNDER $800 tax included. The rate on the room door? More than $300 per night.

The rooms are very small. The even have window air conditioner units. The hotel is more than 100 years old.

But the location is second to none. It is right in the middle of everything. I’m only a five-block walk to the convention center, where the American College of Physicians’ Internal Medicine Meeting is being held (that’s what I’m here for).

Plus, the room has a coffee pot. An ironing board. An iron. A safe. I have a pretty nice view out my window (once you stand on your tip toes and look over the window air conditioner).

The hotel has one of those old, old elevators with doors and gates. I want to say McCabe’s in downtown Rock Island had one of those long, long ago? Someplace in downtown Rock Island did. I remember. And it has been that long since I have been in an elevator like that (at least since the 1970s).

Rooftop access is from the 10th floor of my hotel. The rooftop is a lovely patio that overlooks all downtown San Diego. It is stunning.

And the hotel is attached to a diner with all kinds of great food and drink. Super-duper convenient and not too pricey. The lobby looks into the restaurant through beveled glass. It’s kind of cool.

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Well, as always, I forgot to pack two things: A razor, and a belt. So, I’ll be walking to the mall as soon as it opens at 10, and then headed to the convention center to pick up my press pass and decide “what next.”

Thank you for following my blog! I am sure to have all kinds of interesting stories coming out of San Diego, both in terms of breaking medical research being presented at the conference and my own personal tales. Stay tuned! And…”Let’s hear it for the Rain-bow Tour! It seems to be a wonderful success! We weren’t quite sure…we had a few doubts….”

Second stop on “Rainbow Tour” proves to be another ‘B’-eautiful hotel

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They are two for two with me.

My stay this week at B Historic Hotel in Savannah is my second stop on what I have begun to refer to as “The Rainbow Tour” of B Hotels and Resorts. I hear New Orleans is opening next month. If enough money is left after Uncle Sam gets paid, maybe I’ll visit there, too.

You will recall I stayed at B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale in January and just felt very comfortable, relaxed, and secure while I was there — just what the doctor ordered (quite literally; she says I need a trip a month for a year)

B Historic is the same thing in every way. It’s an amazing, beautiful hotel.

The beds at B Hotels and Resorts are like sleeping on a cloud. It’s one to thing to brand yourself as a place with beds that will make you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud, but they actually deliver on that promise here.

So. Restful.

This morning I had steak and eggs. Last night I had salmon. The food is wonderful. When you eat good food, have you ever noticed it almost gives you a buzz?

I love being pampered.

Multi-million-dollar renovation just completed

B Historic just underwent a multi-million renovation (as did B Ocean, formerly the Sheraton Yankee Clipper).

“Throughout the design and remodel phase, our goal was to create a one-of-a-kind stay, from the moment you walk in until your last second with us,” General Manager Cherelle Davis explained during the grand opening in September. “We want our guests to leave with a lasting impression by showing them true southern hospitality.”

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And they do. There are “the Andres.” Shannon. Chris. Theresa. I could go on and on but I’m sure to forget a name and get in trouble, so I’ll stop there. The staff is amazing. The food and beverage manager looks like Dr. Drew.

The pool is saltwater. B Ocean had a saltwater pool too, but I assumed that was just for the mermaids (although guests swam in it too…you’ll have to ask the guys at The Wreck Bar for those stories, I never would repeat such filth!) And of course there’s a fitness center, spa suite, the whole nine yards.

Just like B Ocean, I would describe this place as “class without attitude.” It’s contemporary and gorgeous, just like B Ocean, but in a way that’s also unique to itself. That is, both hotels have a décor that’s open, airy and exquisite, yet they aren’t cookie cutter. Makes me want to visit them all.

It’s hard for me to loosen up. My vacations at both of these awesome hotels have been worth every penny.

Rumor spreading that my dad owns the hotel

Last night the lounge area was packed again, mostly with super trendy (and friendly!) twenty-somethings. Earlier in the evening there was an older couple who were very “old Savannah.” Honestly, I thought the woman was going to pull one of those old fans right out of her purse and start fanning herself. She asked me if it was true that my dad owned the hotel.

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“Oh, you should have just went with that,” the concierge, Theresa, said this morning. Theresa will make sure you enjoy your stay here. She’s trying to track down a guy I met the first night but lost track of. I asked him to a movie and he said yes. He’s a caregiver for his mother with dementia and he’s exactly my exact age. Very nice guy. He was telling me that he and his sister take shifts in caring for his mom.

B Ocean and B Historic both are places where you truly know that the staff wants you to enjoy yourself. There is a lot to be said for quality service. I have been completely satisfied with everything during both of these stays.

Just like B Ocean, B Historic has a “signature scent” that is pumped through the ventilation system.

Inhaling pleasant scents is delicious.

This hotel is delicious.

Much needed dose of fun and R & R is lightening my load at long last

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I am having great fun in Savannah. For sure, this is an interesting town!

In fact, I’d say this trip to Savannah is proving to be a lesson on how to live, love and laugh again.

You find that people very much are the same wherever you go, but as I suspected, the vibe here is much like the Quad-Cities.

For sure, people here like to let their hair down. And they like to talk.

Perfect.

I met one guy who is caring for his elderly mother with dementia. Ironically, when I saw him sitting alone, I just sort of sensed he might be a caregiver. And I went up and introduced myself, and I was right. Such a nice fellow!

I met these lovely ladies last night and had wonderful time with them, too. I even sang “Midnight Train to Georgia” for karaoke!

Earlier in the day, I took a long trolley tour of the city. There is so much history here I would not even know where to begin. Along the tour, actors boarded the bus at various stops and played out certain characters from Savannah’s past – a woman whose husband went off to sea, for example. She waited 44 years for him to return. He never did. She would stand and wave at the ships that would pass, letting him know she was waiting for him just in case he was aboard. But he never was, and she died after four long decades.

At another site, a pirate boards the trolley (there appears to be a pirate thread in every vacation I take). He climbs on and tells us the story of the famous Pirate’s House restaurant. I hope to get there today or tonight.

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There are so many things to see and do, it’s a bit overwhelming. Wonderful places for coffee, food, and drink. Each place with a unique vibe and a wonderful story. Where to start? John Berendt did it beautifully in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

I am in such vacation mode that I don’t much feel like writing. I just want to relax, absorb, recharge. I told my therapist that I thought I worked a little too hard on the Florida trip. This trip isn’t going be like that (and hasn’t). It’s me time.

There’s nothing wrong with that. This is a good place to come for a “change of scenery,” as they say, and it’s unlike any place I ever have been. It’s a diverse population in terms of generations, from extraordinarily proper-looking elderly women to the 14,000 super hip college students who attend the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design.

It’s awesome that a city with such a rich history is home to aspiring artists. I like how that goes together.

That college has grown from about 700 students in 1986 to more than 14,000 today. It’s pretty amazing. The college takes the old hotels in the area and converts them into dormitories. The city has a very distinct “college town” atmosphere of a non-stop street fest.  The trolley driver told us it’s not unusual for one of the students to grab onto the trolley while on a skateboard. I’m not sure if he was kidding or not! But I can’t get the Bart Simpson image out of my head every time I tell that story.

Certainly, this city is a symbol of restoration and renaissance that probably isn’t duplicated elsewhere to the extent it is here.

And the weather? Highs in the 70s. All sun so far!

Time to head out and see what adventures today brings. Somehow, I suspect it won’t take long to find one.

My first taste of Grits. At the restaurant where Forrest Gump was filmed, no less

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“What are grits?” I asked the waitress, a young, pretty girl with long legs.

“You don’t know what grits are?” she asked with grave concern.

I said I didn’t. She explained they are kind of like Cream of Wheat, but with salt and pepper and cheese they are pretty good.

I ask her some more questions about this restaurant, Debi’s, and its connection to the movie Forrest Gump. She starts to answer my questions.

But the owner of this restaurant, Debi, keeps on her. “He will need to entertain himself, get to the tables now. Sir, did you get on the Internet OK?”

“Yes ma’am,” I’m replied. They all are calling Debi ma’am in here.

The conversations are rather hilarious. I mean, this place really is like the South is depicted in the movies. Yet, this entire place reminds me of the Quad-Cities on many levels, too.

I already have been told – in whispers, by people who seem to care, especially when I share my story – that this place “Isn’t as safe as the tourists think. Be careful at night.”

‘Proper’ Catholic girls, knee-high stockings and lots of history

So, I chose this place because of the “Forrest Gump” writing on the window. A scene was filmed here, where the waitress is pouring Forrest’s coffee and sees him on TV. Here’s a clip of a Forrest Gump Savannah scene. The “box of chocolates” quote was filmed in Chippewa Square. It’s kind of funny that I filmed that selfie scene in Wright Square, because it just immediately made me think of the movie. I did not even realize it was filmed here.

Every two or three blocks, there is a town square here. They all are beautifully landscaped and surrounded by stunning historical buildings, including many churches.

On my walk here, there were several young girls in long plaid skirts, with knee high stockings. Of course, they all entered a school across from a  grand Catholic church. Or maybe it’s a cathedral. I should go back there today.

The weather is beautiful. Sunny with a high of 65 today, but it should be in the mid-70s to near 80 the rest of my visit.

Well, time to dig into my grits, biscuits and gravy and ham and cheese omelet. I’m going to “walk the squares” after this, and maybe go see Mercer House – where the well-to-do older gentlemen murdered the live-in hustler, was convicted three times, but then got off when a Georgia Superior Court overturned. James Williams died eight months after that.

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Oh, I’m learning everything. The hotel concierge knows EVERYTHING. I sat in her office about an hour this morning. I plan to start each day in her office.

As for the Williams case, I have been instructed, “Now you don’t bring that up when you’re there. We pretend that didn’t happen.”

More on my hotel later.

I’m leavin’, LEAVIN’! On that midnight plane to Georgia! Will it be good or evil?

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On that midnight plane to Geor-gia…leavin’ on the mid-night plaaaannne to Geor-gia…WOO WOO!

Well, actually, I landed, at midnight 08, to be exact, at Savannah Hilton Head. What is Savannah, Ga. famous for?

A book called “Midnight in the Garden and Good and Evil.”

Yes, I know. It’s spooky already, isn’t it.

The book, in the first chapter, is a journalist’s tale of the quintessential capitol of the South. Well, there is some argument about what the true capitol of the South is. But there is no argument that all the characters — and the best stories — are in Savannah.

The book, by John Berendt, begins with Chapter One (of course). It’s about his conversation with a man he meets who lives in an historic home who appears to be overly brimming with confidence. It’s a bit odd, yet a bit familiar, at least to me.

The man boasts to the journalist about how he became one of the most famous men in Savannah. Halfway through the chapter, a young man who turns out to be a hustler (and who ends up murdered by the end of the book) bursts into the scene as if he owns this fancy man’s house. He’s rough and tumble and has a foul mouth. The journalist finds it curious.

The chapter ends with Mr. Fancy Pants proclaiming, “I have two Christmas parties, not just one. Both are black-tie. The first party is the famous one. It’s the one that gets written up in the newspapers, the one the high and mighty of Savannah come to. The second party is the next night. It’s the one the papers never write about. It’s…for gentlemen only,” James Williams tells Berendt. “Which party would you like to be invited to?”

Berendt’s answer: “The one least likely to involve gunfire.”

Oh, but there’s so much more.

Already, a trip both enchanting and terrifying

I know. The chill went down my spine when I read it, too. And then I booked a trip to Savannah.

And here I am. The flight from the Quad-Cities to Atlanta was lovely. I never had flown Delta before. Very nice, comfortable aircraft, and extraordinarily friendly southern belle flight attendants. “In the event that our captain decides to turn our flight into a cruise, a flotation device is located underneath your seat.”

That made me chuckle. But when I got to TGI Fridays in the Atlanta airport, terminal E, things got a bit odd. A young man who did not look old enough to be drinking the beer in front of him, and who was, um, well, a little “turned up,” I guess you would call it (I know because I’ve been there, and would never want to go back there), struck up a conversation with me.

It didn’t take me long to understand his situation and very gently explain it to him, and get him to confirm it with me. I then offered him some advice that he seemed to appreciate.

Next, I asked him where he was from. I swear he said, “Davenport.” I said, “Davenport????” He said, “Um, no, Orlando. I’m going there for a family thing, I guess you could call it.”

Well, we had a heart to heart. I hope the kid is safe and gets out of the life he is in.

When I left, the waitress said, “See you again!” And a very scary looking man with greasy hair, probably 30 but looked to be pushing 50, said, “No, you won’t see him ever again.”

Yes. I know. That chill down the spine again.

Then I almost missed the midnight plane to Georgia

I then realized that I had not set the clock forward (an S7 Edge doesn’t do that by itself?) and was an hour late to board my flight.

I ran to the gate.

And I heard, “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the hour-long delay, but a member of our flight crew had a delay from another flight, and we cannot operate the aircraft without three flight attendants. We hope to board within 20 minutes.”

Twenty minutes later, we were in the air. That plane must have flown 1,000 mph because we were only two minutes late.

Now I’m here.

Um, well, honestly, the place feels a bit…odd. In many ways. I will get into all of that tomorrow. I’m tired and I need to say my prayers and go to bed.

NOTHING can stop Lois Lane. She keeps going, and going…

There’s so much more to come. Stay tuned!