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Experts, activists attempt to bridge divide on Lyme disease rates in Canada
Provided by: Canadian Press
Written by: HELEN BRANSWELL
Mar. 9, 2006
TORONTO (CP) - Experts and activists are attempting to bridge the divide on the controversial issue of Lyme disease diagnosis and prevalence in Canada.
A two-day meeting, which concluded Thursday, looked at issues related to how widespread the ticks which carry the disease are, how best to diagnose suspected cases and how to assess the rate of infection in this country.
While work will continue on some of the more contentious questions, the scientist leading the discussion said it was important to get a start on new guidelines. The current Canadian guidelines on diagnosing and treating the disease were drawn up in 1991.
"That's 15 years ago and there's no question there's so much new information about Lyme disease," said Dr. Harvey Artsob, chief of the division of zoonoses and special pathogens for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
"We just had to have the meeting. It's long overdue to update those guidelines."
Jim Wilson agreed. And the president of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation was at peace with the idea that the meeting wouldn't answer all the issues his group has been advocating for, such as adopting diagnostics that appear to produce more positive tests.
"We're just glad we've been invited, that we are being given a voice in what's going to determine the future health of those who we represent," said Wilson, who suffered with the disease's debilitating symptoms for 3 1/2 years before being diagnosed and treated in the mid-1990s.
One area of agreement relates to the distribution of the blacklegged ticks that can carry the bacterium which causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.
Those who say the disease is under-diagnosed in Canada argue infected ticks can be picked up in many parts of the country beyond the agreed-upon hot zones of Southern Ontario, southern British Columbia and in Lunenburg County, N.S.
Artsob said that while infected colonies are established in those areas - and perhaps in southeastern Manitoba - infected ticks can drop from passing birds in almost any part of the country. Ticks submitted to the National Microbiology Laboratory by veterinarians across the country are tested for the bacteria; those tests have shown there is a risk of infection outside the hot zones.
"We've shown there is a theoretical possibility that Canadians can get infected and have Lyme disease basically across Canada," Artsob said.
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Oswiadczenie dla prasy zlozone w imieniu Fundacji
Contact info: Jim Wilson, President, Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation 2495 Reece Rd. Westbank, BC
Lyme disease is a spirochetosis, a bacterial infection by a spirochete called Borrelia. Lyme now outpaces AIDS in numbers of new cases globally each year. There were an estimated 200,000 plus cases in the United States last year alone. Canada has no idea to what extent it is here but the numbers are not small, nor is it rare as claimed by officials. Many Canadians' lives have been ruined. Our medical authorities regularly discredit fully certified and accredited U.S. labs who dare to provide patient test results that differ from theirs.
Alarmingly Lyme has been directly linked in published research to a vast number of diseases including Alzheimer's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, heart disorders, Fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, bowel disorders and on and on. We spend billions of dollars treating these other illnesses yet our total research commitment in Canada for
Lyme over the next 5 years is merely $800,000.
The average Lyme victim incurs many doctors and specialists visits due to the vast range of complex and seemingly conflicting symptoms, putting great stress on appointment wait times and other costs within the medical system including unnecessary surgeries ie joint replacement.
The crucial and obvious research that will once and for all connect the dots between Lyme and other illnesses is not being done yet the evidence is clear. Live and post-mortem research is a must. We believe Canadians are unwilling to continue to spend billions to treat symptoms of disease and not invest in finding the cause of disease.
It's time. we have the opportunity but we will need the help of all levels of government, federal and provincial medical associations, university leaders, corporations, media and the average citizen in the creation of dedicated Lyme disease research facilities. These facilities will be over-seen by victims' representative groups such as the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, as well as
researchers, treating physicians, and others in science to ensure that goals are met and money is well spent. Conflict of interest will be kept out of the equation.
We call upon our politicians to support us in our goals. We also call upon our universities and medical publishers to better educate our doctors and medical students as to cause of illness.
If there is any doubt as to the seriousness of Lyme disease and its connection to other disease processes, and if you want data to support what we have mentioned here please contact us at the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation or go to our website at www.canlyme.org. A new book called Confronting Lyme Disease is a good place to start if Lyme is to be understood and we recommend it for all politicians, doctors and members of the public. Lyme may likely have already touched your life.
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