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President Bush was treated for Lyme disease last August, the White House announced Wednesday after failing to disclose the problem for nearly a year.
The treatment was revealed only when the White House made public all the results of Bush’s annual physical exam on Wednesday. It showed up in the “past medical history” section and in the summary along with other skin conditions.
Bush was treated for what his doctors described as “early, localized Lyme disease” after developing the characteristic bullseye rash.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection that, if left untreated, can cause arthritis and other problems. Symptoms can include lethargy, joint pain, fever, limping and loss of appetite. A bacterial disease, it can be eradicated with antibiotic treatment in the early stages, but can become more complicated to treat if not caught early.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Bush’s treatment was not disclosed earlier because it happened after his last physical, on Aug. 1, 2006. He said doctors decided not to perform blood tests for Lyme disease because the treatment worked for the one area where the president experienced a rash, and he never progressed to other symptoms or saw a recurrence.
“It was a rash,” Stanzel said. “It’s not uncommon for the president to have tick bites when he’s out biking.”
The president’s main form of exercise and recreational activity is biking. His doctors advised him to start wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and use bug spray in risk-prone areas such as Maine, where he is spending this weekend at his parents’ coastal summer home.
Last year’s presidential physical was conducted as usual on a visit to the National Naval Medical Center in suburban Maryland. This year’s took place as a series of exams conducted at the White House and the Camp David, Md., presidential retreat over five days starting July 17 and ending Tuesday night. The process was not revealed until Wednesday.
Doctors pronounced the 61-year-old president healthy overall.
“Doctors have determined that the president remains in superior fitness for a man his age — anybody who’s seen him on the bike or out and about certainly knows that — and that he is fit for duty,” press secretary Tony Snow said.
A total of 11 doctors were involved in the exams, overseen by White House physician Richard Tubb and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the president of The Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. The group included skin, hearing, eye, heart, neurological and sports medicine specialists.
Each signed a statement saying that “within the scope of my specialty” he found Bush “fit for duty” with the expectation that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency — standard language used after presidential physicals.
As part of the exams, Bush had a colonoscopy last month at Camp David. Five small growths were removed from his colon but doctors determined that none of them was cancerous.
A four-page medical summary that accompanied the brief doctors’ statements said Bush remains in the “superior” fitness category for a man of his age, in the 97th percentile, thanks in part to a six-day-a-week exercise regimen.
Bush’s overall cholesterol count is at a healthy level, dropping slightly to 170 from 174. There was a small drop in his high-density lipoprotein (HDL) count, or “good” cholesterol, and a smaller rise in his low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.
The president’s medical profile shows a low to very low risk of coronary artery disease. His resting pulse rate rose to 52 beats per minute from 46. Well-trained athletes typically have resting pulse rate of between 40 and 60 beats per minute.
Other information from Bush’s checkup included: