I am writing this letter to you as a voice for Canadians in this country. The recent news coverage of infected blacklegged ticks in Alberta is just the tip of the iceberg. I am a Canadian who has contracted Lyme disease in this country. I am only one of thousands of Canadians suffering from this insidious disease contracted right here in our country. Lyme disease has been found throughout this country. No one is immune and we are all at risk. The spread of Lyme disease is seven times that of AIDS. Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in North America with the CDC estimating 400,000 cases annually. Canadians are becoming disabled and bedridden by a bite of an infected tick.
The present testing protocol using a two-tiered system is not catching the majority of cases in this country. The first step test – the ELISA – has been shown in many scientific studies to be unreliable and inaccurate in detection the bacteria. I myself was tested three times and told I didn`t have Lyme disease when in fact I do. This story is repeated over and over across this country by Lyme sufferers. Patients cannot get the more accurate test – the Western Blot – without a positive ELISA. People are being misdiagnosed with MS, ALS, Parkinson’s and many more conditions and diseases when they actually have Lyme disease. I was told that I could have MS.
Our doctors across this country are not well versed in Lyme disease, its presentations and how to treat the disease in both the acute and chronic forms. There seems to be apathy about patients with Lyme disease. Doctors are insisting a person doesn`t have Lyme disease even when all the symptoms, bite history etc. exists. Many doctors are telling patients that Lyme disease doesn`t exist in Canada. Doctors are afraid to treat Lyme disease in fear of losing their license. A Canadian out in BC whose son has Lyme disease was actually told by a doctor “I know you have a life-threatening illness but I’m sorry, I can’t risk my license to treat you.” and “yes, I know your lab came back positive for a tick-borne infection but I’m not going to treat you! Go see your guy in the USA . Get him to treat you.” This is appalling and in a word inhumane. This is a child who is fighting for his life with late stage Lyme disease in a country where universal health care is supposed to be as Canadian as the Maple Leaf. How is our government allowing this to happen and why isn`t educating our doctors about this disease not a priority of the federal government since Lyme disease is affecting the whole country.
Presently if a Canadian contracts Lyme disease that person will most likely be unable to receive medical help and be forced to leave our country and travel to the US or Europe to be treated for a bacterial infection. Many will lose their homes, life savings, while others are unable to afford treatment and left to rot. We have mini communities of Canadians living in the US fighting to stay alive from a tick bite. We are being referred to as LYME LEPERS since our own country has abandoned us. People are dying, suffering from this disease and many Lyme patients with no light of help are killing themselves to be free of this horrific disease that robs a person of their mind and body. How can this be happening in Canada? It`s reminiscent of the early days of AIDS when the gay community were dying and no one cared. Did we not learn anything from that shameful time?
For some reason the response of Public Health on this disease has been lack lustre. There are studies dating back twenty years about the spread of Lyme disease into Canada yet on a whole the amount of education given to the public on this disease by provincial and federal health officials is dismal. Where are the campaigns like those ran for West Nile, SARS or H1N1? The public was inundated with information about each of those health threats yet Lyme disease is getting little promotion on all levels of government even though this is the fastest growing infectious disease in North America and more and more reports are showing black legged ticks all over this country. The States that border Canada are some of the most endemic for Lyme disease in the US. It is naive and irresponsible of our government not to be making a full out effort to educate the public.
In closing I would just like to say I feel that Public Health failed me. I knew nothing about deadly bacteria in my backyard. I knew about SARS, West Nile and H1N1 because my government knew that my health as well as every other Canadians was at risk from these threats. I was able to follow the precautions suggested by my health officials and protect myself and my family. The government has known about this health threat for many, many years yet there has been no urgency to inform the public. We have people dying, children suffering from a preventable and treatable disease. Lyme disease needs to be a priority now. We, as a country, need to become educated and we need our federal government to lead the way. Please use your medium to help educate the woefully unaware public.