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A Close Up Of An Adult Female, An Adult Male, Nymph And Larva Tick Is Shown June 15, 2001. Ticks Cause An Acute Inflammatory Disease Characterized By Skin Changes, Joint Inflammation, And Flu-Like Symptoms Called Lyme Disease. Photograph by Stock

BY GWEN BARLEE, TIMES COLONIST JULY 5, 2012 Two weeks ago, something remarkable happened. Dr. Robbin Lindsay, a research scientist with the Public Health Agency of Canada, said he feared a “disease explosion” in regards to Lyme disease, a serious tick-borne infection now found throughout southern Canada.

Climate change has created more hospitable habitat for ticks that carry Lyme disease and, increasingly, infected ticks are found in higher numbers and in areas they weren’t found before.

Lyme disease is a serious infection. If a person bitten by an infected tick is treated promptly and robustly with antibiotics, the disease can be stopped in its tracks. However, if the disease is left untreated or misdiagnosed, the bacteria moves quickly out of the bloodstream into joints, cartilage and even into the brain, becoming an entrenched infection that can leave people in wheelchairs.

Lyme disease is known as the “great imitator” because it is a multi-system infection that mimics other chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis and even deadly Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is problematic to diagnose – the standard blood tests in Canada are notoriously unreliable. Matters are further complicated by the fact that many medical practitioners in Canada still believe Lyme disease is a rare and easy-to-treat condition.

Although the disease has exploded in the United States over the past 20 years, culminating in more than 30,000 diagnosed or suspected cases in 2010, here in Canada, where infected ticks seem to stop at the border, only 150 cases are diagnosed annually. Lack of medical knowledge, combined with inaccurate blood tests, has resulted in misdiagnosis and forced many infected Canadians to go south of the border and pay for medical treatment they should be able to get in Canada.

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By Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver Sun March 29, 2011

The B.C. Medical Journal report also raised serious questions about the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.

Sixty-three per cent of doctors said they were unaware that a bulls-eye rash is the only symptom they need to see in order to make a clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease.

Such a rash means a prescription for antibiotics can be given without the need for laboratory testing.

But studies have shown that up to 65 per cent of those with Lyme disease may not develop a rash. In such cases, treatment might not be started unless there is a positive lab confirmation. And such testing — to detect antibodies — can’t be used until weeks after the initial infection.

Another report also says doctors lack knowledge about Lyme disease and that better testing is urgently needed.

Written by Provincial Health Services Authority official Brian Schmidt and presented to the provincial government in May 2010, it notes that many doctors are skeptical about chronic Lyme disease, partly because the symptoms are similar to other ailments like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Schmidt said the current state of diagnostic testing methods for Lyme disease is inadequate and recommends that B.C. “lead the nation” in developing new tests based on genetic sequencing. He also urged more education for doctors and for those who work outdoors

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