Lyme disease - the ongoing battle
Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014 1:39PM MDT Last Updated Tuesday, June 3, 2014 7:10PM MDT
One tiny tick can ruin a life.
Lyme disease is caused by a bite from an infected blacklegged tick. The bite itself can go unnoticed, but the disease can be difficult to ignore.
Many Canadians, who are seriously ill, believe Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed and under-treated in this country.
They are hoping a private member’s bill could help bring the situation to light and result in a national strategy, of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May is behind Bill C-422 and she says “this bill represents the first ray of light for many who have been suffering for years.”
Nelson Gourlay has Lyme disease. He says the bill is “a step in the right direction, even if it just gets awareness out. Yes, Lyme is in Canada.”
Gourlay searched for years for a diagnosis that would explain a long list of symptoms, including excruciating pain and unrelenting fatigue.
Gourlay finally received confirmation from a private laboratory in the U.S. that he had Lyme disease, but the diagnostic testing is controversial. The private lab uses different methods than public health agencies in Canada and the U.S.
Since the diagnosis came from outside the Canadian medical system, Gourlay has had trouble finding a doctor who would treat him. He finally found a Calgary doctor, but says he won’t identify the doctor because he fears the doctor would face serious professional repercussions.
Gourlay says he has struggled with the disease since 1993 and the symptoms worsened several years ago. However, he’s hopeful he will recover now that he has a diagnosis and a doctor who is willing to help him.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that the number of cases of Lyme disease is rising. It expects, that once all the data is in, there will be over 500 cases confirmed last year.
However, PHAC also states on its website “surveillance detects only a portion of the Lyme disease cases in Canada. The true number of Lyme disease infections in Canada is likely greater.”
The private member’s bill has only made it through second reading so there is no national plan at this time.
As a result, Canadians who think they have Lyme disease are on still on their own if the diagnosis comes from outside the Canadian health care system.
Gourlay says “it is a very isolating disease when your life gets taken over”.
(With files from CTV Ottawa)