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September 25, 2011 – 3:54am

Discredited test

It’s alarming to read that the person in charge of infectious disease control in Nova Scotia is asserting that doctors should be relying on blood tests for a diagnosis of Lyme disease (re: “Doctors blamed for mishandling Lyme disease,” Sept. 22).

The Public Health Agency of Canada quite clearly recommends: “When someone shows symptoms of Lyme disease and might have been exposed to the ticks that carry it … physicians [should] treat the illness, even if it has not been confirmed with laboratory testing.”

Furthermore, the ELISA test used here is notoriously unreliable, and at least one Lyme disease specialist has publicly urged that it be banned.

The number of Lyme cases officially recognized by the province (67) remains laughably small by comparison with the actual cases.

It’s high time that the Health Department records the number of people being treated, rather than the number of positive results on a discredited test.

Gillian Thomas, Ardoise

Deserve better

In your Sept. 22 article “Doctors blamed for mishandling Lyme disease,” Elaine Holmes, the province’s director of communicable disease prevention control, is reported as saying, “Nova Scotia uses blood tests to confirm Lyme disease” and “any clinical diagnoses in Nova Scotia must be followed up by a blood test.”

I draw to your attention an article in The Chronicle Herald in February, titled “Lyme disease tests gave false all-clear to 13 Nova Scotians — health officer.”

In this article, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief public health officer, is quoted as saying, “Often our recommendation to physicans is if somebody has been in an area of high risk or has a likely or known tick bite and then also has clinical symptoms, to go ahead and … treat the person. And we’ll continue to call them a Lyme disease case and everything regardless of what the lab tests show.”

Elaine Holmes’ statements are in direct opposition to Dr. Strang’s.

Both of these individuals are employed by the Health Department of Nova Scotia. Does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing?

With the mishandling, underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis of Lyme disease in this province, it is not the health professionals who are suffering. It is the Lyme disease victims.

We deserve better.

Paula Isenor, Bedford


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

Read more:

 March 2010

Critics and Lyme disease sufferers say their illness isn’t taken seriously enough and the ‘ignorance’ and ‘arrogance’ of Canadian health agencies has driven them to desperation.