Lyme – Sloppy TV Journalism

Yesterday, April 1st, Channel 4 TV aired a piece on Lyme Disease, as part of its series “Embarrassing Bodies”.  I’m not clear about why a feature on Lyme Disease would feature on a largely voyeuristic (if fascinating) programme on embarrassing conditions.  Any coverage on Lyme Disease is to be generally welcomed.  Short slots on programmes are, by definition, not able to cover a subject in depth so whatever they do say needs to be 100% accurate.

It was good to see that they estimated the number of cases at 3000 a year, and to state that it is becoming more common, but the programme makers stated that the most common symptom of Lyme Disease is a “bullseye” shaped rash at the bite site.  This is incorrect, as Channel 4’s own website for this programme, states – as few as 30% may present with a rash.  As any sufferer would know, the range of symptoms is wide, and often baffling to GPs, and it would have been more helpful to show how, taken together in the absence of the classic rash, they can nevertheless lead to an accurate diagnosis and, critically, early treatment.  It was good to see that they at least featured a sufferer who has been paralysed by the disease, but perpetuated the myth that you have to be walking in forested undergrowth to be at risk.  You could get Lyme Disease in your garden, and the sooner the population wakes up to that the better.

THEN, the very next day, another edition of the same programme said that you are more likely to get Lyme in the eastern USA than anywhere else, and that you are especially at risk paddling in fresh water!!  There was no mention of the large chunk of northern europe where you are equally at risk – especially if, in these straightened times, you holiday closer to home.

It turned out that this episode predated the 1 April edition but it is inexcusable to rebroadcast information that has previously been shown to be inaccurate and misleading (apparently it was widely flagged up to Channel 4 at the original airing).  The very least they could do is broadcast a correction.