Monday, August 26, 2013

College of Charleston president in the hospital for Lyme Disease

George Benson went in for severe back pain, MUSC diagnosed the disease

Posted by Corey Hutchins on Mon, Aug 26, 2013 at 10:28 PM

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College of Charleston president George Benson is in the hospital being treated for Lyme Disease, according to an e-mail he addressed to members of the campus community this week.

A week ago Benson, 67, had been hospitalized for severe back pain, but he wasn't sure of the cause, he wrote. He said for the past week medical professionals at the Medical University of South Carolina had been looking for the source. 

“I am still at the hospital, where I’m now being treated for Lyme Disease,” Benson wrote in the Aug. 26 email, which reached staff at the college early in the morning. He expects he'll stay in the hospital for at least a week. 

College of Charleston spokesman Michael Robertson confirmed Benson sent the email. 

The most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States, the disease has been on the rise, reported The New Yorker in a detailed piece last month titled “The Lyme Wars.”

“The symptoms for Lyme Disease vary significantly from one person to another, which explains why Lyme Disease can be difficult to diagnose,” Benson wrote in his email. “Many people respond quickly to the available treatments for Lyme Disease, and they fully recover in short order. My case may be a little more complicated, which could draw out my recovery time. In addition, for the next few days my current treatment has to be administered in a hospital setting.”

Benson said he's remained in contact with leadership at the school and he expected to be included on an Aug. 26 conference call with members of the college's executive team. The college president announced earlier this month he will be stepping down from his post in June 2014, but will continue teaching classes at the business school.

There were only 24 confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in South Carolina in 2011, according to figures provided by the Center for Disease Control. The disease, however, is tricky to diagnose, and treating it has divided the medical community. 

“Even the definition of Lyme disease, and the terminology used to describe it, has fuelled years of acrimonious debate,” wrote Micheal Specter in last month's New Yorker. “The conventional medical assessment is straightforward: in most cases, the tick bite causes a skin rash, called erythema migrans, which is easily identified by its bull’s-eye. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to muscles, joints, the heart, and even the brain. Public-health officials say that a few weeks of antibiotic treatment will almost always wipe out the infection, and that relapses are rare. In this view, put forth in guidelines issued by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Lyme is normally easy to treat and easy to cure. For many people, though, the clinical situation is far more complicated. Some who have been infected with [it] don’t notice the rash. Others—up to a quarter of those with Lyme...—never even get one.”

A possible successor to Benson, Republican Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, was also sickened by Lyne Disease last year, according to The Associated Press. McConnell says he's been approached by trustees who have been gauging his interest about the job, according to Live 5. Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of Lexington County also took antibiotics for the disease in 2011. 

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