Can Canada Afford To Get Lyme Disease This Wrong?

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April 27, 2015
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Can Canada Afford To Get Lyme Disease This Wrong?


Governments and insurance companies have learned that if you do not want to pay for something, do not recognize or count it. At the same time, there is an undeniable threat at our door with the increase of ‘Vector Borne Diseases’ or diseases spread through insect bites.

When it comes to Lyme disease, instead of building capacity to head off more deadly vector borne diseases, Canada has its head buried like a tick and the result is sucking Lyme patients dry

In the last few years, there has been article after article documenting Canada’s ineffective response to the growing number of people with acute and chronic Lyme disease. Patients were hopeful with the promise of a new Complex Chronic Disease Program in Vancouver that was going to offer expertise in Lym. However, it ended up a mess! The doctors resigned with a wait list of over 1,500 patients. One of the Doctors, Liz Zubec, said in her public letter of resignation, that the program was going backwards. Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee said it best in a June 18, 2015, Times Colonist article:

” Instead of antibiotics the program was advocating cognitive behavioural therapy as “treatment” for Lyme disease patients. Nowhere in the annals of medical literature does it show that deep breathing exercises and yoga will eradicate an infection.

The new Health Canada guidelines suggest that we should just cover up. In summary, they suggest that you should wear army boots, stockings, long pants, turtle necks, toxic tick repellant and a bio-hazard suite when going outdoors in the spring, summer and fall. This includes urban areas where ticks can be brought home aboard your neighbour’s dog. The underlying message here is that if you get Lyme disease it must be your fault!

Here is a rough summary of what is going on. Lyme and related diseases are a bacterial infection of the Borrelia burgdorferi carried by ticks (Note there are over 8 strains, and we only test for a few).  It is a quickly growing problem across Canada most likely due to global warming. On its heels are several other tick and insect borne infections that are spreading up from the US.

The blood smear test that was once promoted as ‘extremely sensitive’ to Canadian doctors is now controversial. Some reports suggest it is misses 30% to 70% of cases. Yes, it misses diagnosing that many cases of Lyme disease. The ‘bulls eye’ rash is not present in a large percentage of cases and even when it is, many Doctors tell the patient not to worry because there is no real threat. Canadian doctors continue to be given miss-information about Lyme disease and pass these attitudes on to their patients.

It gets worse. In Canada you have to have a positive result in the first blood test in order to get the second, more accurate stage of testing, which can also miss the bacteria. The gold star of diagnosing all bacterial infections, growing a culture of the bacteria, is not available in Canada, but even if someone gets a positive culture grown in the US, Canada will not recognize the results and approve treatment

Because Lyme disease can affect neurological functioning and causes inflammation, in many cases people are misdiagnosed with other illnesses including: MS, ALS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and a variety of mental health disorders including depression. They are given antidepressants and referred to psychiatrists. Some are committing suicide.

Rather than fighting the medical system in Canada , more and more Lyme Disease patients are heading to other countries for treatment. The Lyme community has even developed the term  – ‘Lyme Literate’ professionals and clinics. But it is still difficult to search for credible clinical treatment.

But what are the costs for treatment and who can afford it?

One Vancouver woman, Caroline Lennox, is struggling to get to the funds together for her medical expenses. For example, she spent $3,000 for a definitive diagnosis and has spent thousands since then for treatments. She has found a naturopath in Vancouver who treats Lyme, but the costs are huge and travel from Victoria to Vancouver is not covered for naturopathic treatments.

Simply put, those who can afford it will get expensive treatment. Those who cannot find a way to come up with the funds – will not. We need to create community based solutions to help everyone get treatment for Lyme disease, not just the celebrities and the rich. The costs to society are too great not to give everyone an equal chance at recovering from this complex disease.


Increase in Vector borne diseases

Tick borne diseases

Nine Reasons for False Negative Lyme Disease Blood Test Results
From the Lyme Disease Foundation

Macleans July 30, 2014

Macleans March 24 2014

BC loses another Doc and numbers – Times Colonise

Parting words as Alison Bested leaves BC – Vancouver Sun

Parting words – and hospital criticism – as Dr. Alison Bested leaves B.C., returns to Ontario

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