A Clifton Park man whose son has Lyme disease says the school nurse won’t administer the boy’s prescribed treatment because it’s an alternative medicine.
Now Wayne Van Patten is making a daily noontime trip to Koda Middle School to give his son, Sunny, an oral treatment that the 13-year-old gets four times a day for Lyme disease, a deer tick-borne infection usually identifiable by a bull’s-eye rash.
Without a dose administered at school, Van Patten said, it is very difficult to squeeze in four doses a day during the week.
The nurse initially agreed to give Sunny the medication, but after four or five days said she couldn’t continue because government health agencies do not recommend that medication, Van Patten said. He said he understands the nurse’s position but still think it’s “ridiculous” that he has to go to school and give his son the medication himself, especially when it was prescribed by a doctor.
Students aren’t allowed to administer their own medications at school.
Shenendehowa Central School District officials wouldn’t say what the procedure is for giving nontraditional medications.
“We don’t comment on medical information,” said district spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani.
Van Patten and his son both discovered a year ago that they have Lyme, the father after having persistent knee pain and Sunny because of back pain.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” he recalled. “We both caught it early.”
Lyme can produce a wide range of symptoms from fever and headache to severe fatigue and joint pain, and if left untreated can cause arthritis and problems with the heart and central nervous system, according to the state Department of Health website.
Van Patten and his son took the recommended course of antibiotics, but at the direction of their doctor are also taking a supplement designed to boost their immune systems and eliminate toxins from the body.
“We’ve got it under control and we’re trying to get it out of our systems completely,” Van Patten said.
But the supplement, a mix of herbs and minerals called the Cowden Support Program and usually taken for six months, is not recommended by government health agencies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends patients follow the 2006 guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which for Lyme disease in its early stage calls for a two- to four-week course of treatment with certain antibiotics.
The guidelines also expressly do not recommend stronger doses of antibiotics or giving antibiotics for a prolonged period, or taking vitamins, magnesium or other alternative therapies.
“We only recommend the ones that the IDSA recommends,” said CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell.
But the IDSA guidelines have generated controversy among doctors, researchers, patients and lawmakers who say that successfully treating the disease is much more complicated than the guidelines say, especially because some patients do not get well after the recommended treatment.
“The ideal antibiotics, route of administration, and duration of treatment for any stage of Lyme disease are not established,” U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey said in a 2010 speech on the floor of the House. “No single antibiotic or combination of antibiotics appears to be capable of completely eradicating the infection in all patients, and treatment failures or relapses are reported with all current regimens, although they are less common with early aggressive treatment.”
The treatment of Lyme disease has attracted greater interest regionally as cases of the disease have grown.
Since 2008, cases of confirmed Lyme have spiked in New York state, especially in the Capital Region. Between 1998 and 2007, the number of cases statewide hovered between 4,000 and 5,500 a year, according to state Health Department statistics.
But in 2008 they jumped to 9,152, with more cases reported in Albany, Saratoga, Rensselaer and other upstate counties than in previous years.
In 2011, the most recent year for which numbers are readily available, there were 8,007 cases reported statewide, including 525 in Saratoga County, 364 in Albany County and 79 in Schenectady County.