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A tiny Lyme-bearing Pacific black-legged tick on a person's arm.

By Sean McIntyre – Gulf Islands Driftwood
Published: July 04, 2012 9:00 AM
Updated: July 04, 2012 10:07 AM
When Salt Spring’s Terri Bibby noticed a bite that developed a red rash after a hike in 2009, she never imagined that she would find herself becoming part of a major medical controversy, requiring years of expensive medical treatment and having to cope with the life-altering symptoms of Lyme disease.

As in the case of many other Canadians in her situation, Bibby was unable to receive a proper diagnosis because of the medical community’s ongoing discord about the disease’s prevalence, diagnosis and treatment. “There is no Lyme in B.C.,” she recalls being told at the Victoria hospital where she was taken by ambulance.

The introduction of a private member’s bill by Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May on June 21 has offered some hope that others faced with potential infection won’t have to undergo the same sense of isolation and frustration experienced by Bibby and countless others.

“This is the ultimate of non-partisan issues. This is the ultimate of non-geographically limited issues,” said the Green Party of Canada leader, while introducing Bill C-442 in the House of Commons. “We are, in each of our ridings, facing an increasing threat to our constituents and their families from a very tiny threat: a tiny tick that is spreading and spreading and can bring debilitating illness to any one of us at any time.”

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is transmitted to humans by ticks, insects that can often be as small as a poppy seed.

May wants to implement a nationwide discussion and subsequent strategy to address the affects of Lyme disease. The proposal, she said, would serve to promote awareness, better diagnosis, offer treatments and examine best practices used in other parts of the world. If the bacteria isn’t detected and treated at the correct moment, the disease’s symptoms can include fever, severe headaches and joint pain, along with other cognitive and neurological debilitations.

“With climate change anticipated to change the number of vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease, development of a formal federal strategy will become a high priority.

“At a time when many U.S. states have tackled this urgent issue head on, it is ironic that Canada still downplays Lyme disease and clings to outdated standards for diagnosis and care,” reads part of a statement released in conjunction with May’s announcement.

“This means that every year hundreds, even thousands, of Canadians either go untreated or are required to go to the United States for treatment where they are prescribed heavy doses of antibiotics not covered by our provincial healthcare plans,” May said.

In Bibby’s case, several trips were made to Seattle and New York state to see specialists and undergo a definitive test that shows she still has Lyme disease after three years of various treatments.

This personal experience encouraged Bibby’s husband, an award-wining documentary filmmaker, to begin work on a film titled A New Lens on Lyme that looks at the latest research on Lyme and associated diseases that are transmitted by ticks.

“The film is science-based,” said Alan Bibby. “It will contain information about the debate in the medical community, but we want to go beyond the rhetoric. The biggest questions involve the reliability of tests, the safety and efficacy of antibiotic treatments and whether the disease-causing organisms can be permanently eliminated. We want to document success stories — those chronic Lyme patients that have achieved a quality of life: what worked for them? We would like something positive to come out of this.”

Bibby has taped local stories and interviewed “Lyme-literate” doctors, specialists and scientists in the United States, where reported cases of Lyme infections are between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals per year. Given that ticks can be found anywhere in the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island, Bibby urges people who spend any amount of time outdoors to inspect themselves for possible bites on a regular basis.

Ticks are best removed by a slow and gentle pull with fingers or tweezers. Specialized tick removers are available through local retailers and people with any concerns can always visit Lady Minto Hospital.

The best way to lower the odds of contracting Lyme disease is through prevention. In addition to regular tick checks, the Vancouver Island Health Authority recommends people walk on cleared trails wherever possible, wear light coloured clothing, tuck shirts into pants and tuck pants into boots or socks, use a DEET-based insect repellant on all uncovered skin, inspect clothing and scalp when leaving tick-prone areas like grassy fields of forests, and regularly check household pets.

Should symptoms like a bull’s-eye rash develop around the bitten area, Bibby recommends people consult a physician and insist upon immediate antibiotic treatment. “Don’t wait for unreliable testing,” he said.

Bibby said anyone who wants to share their experience with Lyme disease is encouraged to reach him at 250-537-8813 or bibby@media-group.com.

Article Link here:
http://www.gulfislandsdriftwood.com/news/161347775.html

Elizabeth May calls for Lyme disease strategy
Green Party leader says Lyme disease is no longer rare
CBC News Posted: Jul 9, 2012 8:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 9, 2012 10:46 AM ET

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says the federal government needs to come up with a national strategy to deal with Lyme disease. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says the federal government needs to develop a national strategy to combat Lyme disease that includes ways to improve prevention and diagnosis of the disease.

The British Columbia MP’s comments come on the heels of several people speaking out about the presence of Lyme disease in the Fredericton area.

May introduced a private member’s bill in June that calls on federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to hold a conference to draft a national plan for dealing with Lyme disease.

May said the disease is becoming more common in Canada and the federal government needs to craft a cohesive strategy to address it.

“The scope of the problem is number one, that more people are getting Lyme disease than the medical community has expected,” May said.

“A lot of doctors still operate under the assumption that this disease is very, very rare — that’s no longer the case. And we also have the problem that it’s hard to diagnose.”

May said the national strategy would help various health districts across the country share their experiences on dealing with the disease.

“We’re looking at putting together a strategy to deal with the need for better awareness, for prevention, the need for better tools for diagnosis and of course, the need for better tools for treatment,” she said.

The state of Maine recently issued warnings for residents there to take precautions because of an increase in ticks carrying Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of two species of ticks: blacklegged ticks, which are also called deer ticks, and western blacklegged ticks.

The first sign a person who has contracted Lyme disease may have is a circular rash surrounding the spot where the bite happened.

The rash normally appears between three and 30 days after the bite. The rash may be followed by symptoms like fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes.

If left untreated, the disease can progress to a second phase, which can last several months. Symptoms in the second phase include migraines, weakness, multiple skin rashes, painful or stiff joints, abnormal heartbeat and extreme fatigue.

FREDERICTON RESIDENTS SPEAK OUT

Another Fredericton-area resident has come forward to talk about Lyme disease being in the area.

Brian McEwing told CBC News he was bitten by an infected tick last fall at the University of New Brunswick’s woodlot.

McEwing said he was wearing a wool sweater and a fleece jacket while geocaching, but a tick still managed to burrow into his arm.

He removed the tick and it tested positive for Lyme disease.

“I did have some anxiety for a while, but I knew I’d caught it early,” said McEwing, whose doctor gave him antibiotics.

“I was comfortable with the treatment I received and, like I say, so far, everything’s fine.”

McEwing said there have been at least four cases among members of the congregation at his church.

Public health officials say they have been no confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the Fredericton area in the past five years.

A Fredericton-area woman said in an interview on Friday that it’s time for the New Brunswick government to take Lyme disease more seriously.

Lorraine Bird, a resident of Charters Settlement, said she spent six years trying to get a proper diagnosis of why she was suffering numbness in her face and constant fatigue.

She said doctors kept telling her she was sick but they didn’t know how to treat her.

“So it’s very complex and it mimics a lot of other diseases and it’s very frustrating for people,” she said.

“We need to have that reviewed. That’s the bottom line. If our testing was more intricate or different, it would certainly help more people.”

Bird eventually had her blood sent to California for testing and a doctor in Maine began treating her with antibiotics.

Article link here:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/07/09/nb-elizabeth-may-lyme-disease-731.html