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#HotDocs22 ‘The Quiet Epidemic’ Review: A Sobering Look at a Hidden Crisis

This year’s HotDocs Film Festival saw the world premiere of The Quiet Epidemic about a current healthcare crisis. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many of us have learned more about epidemiology and the disease process than we ever could have dreamed. The Quiet Epidemic shines a spotlight on a still-misunderstood illness that can wreak havoc, Lyme Disease.

Lyme Disease is simultaneously one of the most recognizable tick-borne illnesses, and still wildly misunderstood, even by the medical community. Patients the world over continue to search for answers while simultaneously dealing with debilitating symptoms that just don’t go away. The Quiet Epidemic captures the combination of political apathy and the rampant corruption of big pharma companies. 

The documentary breaks down the fact that conventional medical guidelines recommend short courses of antibiotics. Unfortunately, this is insufficient for so many Lyme patients who continue to see no relief from life-altering symptoms. If left untreated, Lyme can impact every body system. One physician profiled in this documentary had such extensive cardiac damage, he required a heart transplant after contracting Lyme. 

This documentary also chronicles how often patients are not being believed, even when they’re symptomatic and even questioning if they have Lyme Disease. The testing that’s currently available for use on the market isn’t even particularly effective, making it a struggle even to get a diagnosis. Instead, patients are often left fighting for treatment, when the conventional treatment options available are insufficient. 

The lack of research, viable testing options, treatments beyond short term antibiotic therapy, and a vaccine combine to make a perfect storm. The documentary definitely could have explored how this often leads Lyme patients to seek treatment approaches that aren’t based on evidence in the midst of their desperation. Snake oil salesmen have a sadly perfect opportunity to prey on those just desperate for relief and for answers. The fact that there actually is a Lyme vaccine isn’t addressed in a tonne of detail here either, although that in itself is a fascinating story worth exploring. 

The Quiet Epidemic does a superb job in shining a spotlight on the very real impact this disease has on so many people around the world. In its worst form, it can be fatal. Similarly to COVID, although many cases are either asymptomatic or mild, the disease can cause catastrophic, long term damage in the human body. The documentary never shies away from acknowledging the human toll taken on patients and their families.

Hopefully, The Quiet Epidemic will empower those living with Lyme to use the fact that they are not alone to advance their self-advocacy. It will also hopefully inspire medical professionals who don’t fully understand the disease process to do better and to believe the patients in front of them when living with this disease. This incredibly accessible documentary is sure to educate a wide audience on the scope of the problem with Lyme. 

The Quiet Epidemic has its World Premiere at the HotDocs Film Festival May 2, 2022.

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