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Bush treated for Lyme disease

WASHINGTON – President Bush was treated for Lyme disease a year ago after he developed the characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash that often marks the onset of the tick-borne disease, the White House reported Wednesday.

The disclosure came in Bush’s annual medical report, which followed the president’s annual physical exam Tuesday. The report also noted that the president lost four pounds in the past year and remains in “excellent” health with “superior” physical fitness.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted to humans by infected ticks and, if left untreated, can lead to arthritis-like symptoms and neurological disorders. However, when caught early, it is easily treated with antibiotics.

White House officials did not specify the president’s treatment but said he received the “standard” treatment and developed no symptoms of the disease other than the initial rash.

“It was the standard, recommended treatment for early, localized Lyme disease,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

According to the medical report, the rash appeared sometime in August 2006. It was not clear where the president might have contracted the disease, but, Stanzel said, “It’s not unusual for the president to receive tick bites when he is riding his mountain bike.”

Bush discovered the telltale circular rash on his left leg, below the knee, and brought it to the attention of the White House doctor. Stanzel said the president was conscientious about taking precautions against Lyme disease, which is common on the East Coast. “He wears proper clothing and bug spray, and when he’s done riding his bike he does check for ticks,” he said.

Because the incident did not affect the president’s duties or his schedule, it was not disclosed to the public at the time, Stanzel said. The president did not have a blood test to confirm the diagnosis, Stanzel said, because he did not develop more symptoms after treatment.

In past years, the president has traveled to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for his annual physical. This year, he underwent tests in stages over a number of days, mostly at the White House.

“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 about certainly knows that – and that he is fit for duty,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

The president, 61, weighed in at 192 pounds. He is an avid exerciser, working out six days a week. His body-fat quotient declined slightly over the past year to 16.6 percent from 16.8 percent. He has a resting pulse rate of 52 beats per minute and resting blood pressure of 117 over 71.