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COUNTERPOINT: We don’t take Lyme seriously enough

by JIM WILSON

Published June 16, 2018

Diagnosis, treatment is still lacking in Nova Scotia
B97808243Z.120180615163154000GK8L2CS6.11The bullseye rash, like the one pictured on a woman’s arm above, is often associated with the early stages of Lyme disease. (JAMES GATHANY)

Re: your June 9 Letter of the Week: “Stop pushing the Lyme disease panic button.” I think it is time for a different take than what’s offered in this letter and the June 3 news article it stemmed from, “Public health failing to address Lyme disease crisis, says author.”

Born in Nova Scotia, I contracted Lyme disease in Dartmouth in 1991.

Little has improved since then, except for awareness.

Diagnosis and treatment are still very poor. Testing for Lyme disease is not even recommended until at least two to three weeks after infection because the current testing protocols used Canada-wide are indirect tests — checking to see if the patient has developed detectable levels of antibodies to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease (borreliosis), and it takes that long for us to develop the antibodies. By then, the disease has moved into deep tissue.

Lyme disease is not easily preventable; it requires daily due diligence and even then you can still become infected.

It may require landscaping redesign of your property, separating tick habitat from your living space.

Ticks, especially those that transmit Lyme disease, are tiny and not easily seen. Frequently, if you see one tick on you, you may miss other ticks that are in areas of the body not easily observed, including under the hair and in private parts.

Also, Canada says it is keen on prevention. Yet a majority of countries have approved products for sale designed to prevent ticks from attaching, such as permethrin-soaked clothing and eucalyptus oil with icaridin. Only after years of asking, Health Canada finally approved permethrin-soaked clothing to be sold here, but strangely only to prevent insect bites, not tick attachments (unlike 45 other countries).

Also, the eucalyptus-oil-based products containing icaridin (also called picaridin) that have been shown to be very effective have not been approved for sale in Canada either. So is Canada truly concerned about prevention? It appears not.

Rhode Island, a tiny U.S. state, has 9,000-plus cases per year, using the United States Center for Disease Control model of 10 times the confirmed cases (due in large part to poor tests, poor medical education and other reasons).

It is illogical to blame the individual for not taking precautions, which is the implication in the article and in this letter.

The fact is, even with the best of precautions and awareness, people are still becoming infected in record numbers, as there is a large amount of under-reporting.

The article and the letter also fail to point out that ticks do not only transmit Lyme disease.

Our motto at the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme.org) is No Tick Is A Good Tick.

That’s because we must be concerned about all species of ticks that will attach to humans. They are all capable of transmitting various diseases (ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, etc.) — some requiring only a short period of attachment — and they can deliver serious neurotoxins such as tick paralysis (from the Dermacentor ticks commonly known in the west as the wood tick and in eastern and central Canada, the dog tick).

According to the original article, “Heather Fairbairn, a spokeswoman with the province’s public health department, states Lyme disease is easily curable both in the early and later states of the disease.”

That is simply an irresponsible statement that flies in the face of all credible evidence-based, grade-level science.

If caught very early, it can usually be cured with antibiotics. Sadly though, most cases are not diagnosed early — and typically it is only those who present with a nicely defined bull’s-eye rash who are.

But most people do not get that rash.

You can easily apply the “10 times of reported confirmed cases” estimate to Nova Scotia as well, putting the likely number of cases at around 4,000 per year — not around 400 — showing clearly that it is not easily prevented.

Later-stage Lyme disease is very difficult to treat in many cases — again a well-known fact supported by all studies done on animals and thousands of individuals’ testimony (similar to the 100 people who testified on camera at the 2016 Lyme disease conference sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada as required by federal legislation enacted with all-party, unanimous support).

The legislation came about due to misinformation by government and medical authorities over decades.

Physicians are improperly educated and not given the true picture of Lyme borreliosis and other tick-borne diseases. People do not have access to adequate diagnosis and treatment.

Jim Wilson is president of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.

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**Comment**

Bravo, Jim.  You are spot on.