Patients suffering from “tickophobia”

Opinion

To the Editor:

Ticks and Lyme have been in the media on a regular basis lately.

It seems that there are patients in Canada suffering from what some Canadian scientists refer to as “tickophobia.” People are concerned but the ticks are not going away, and people will have to learn how to deal with the problem and protect themselves as best they can. It is high time doctors take a look at current research data and educate themselves rather than passing a tick bite off as nothing to worry about.

A new, national, peer-reviewed report was recently published in the journal Healthcare, and was co-authored by a Mount Allison University tick expert, Dr. Vett Lloyd, and Dr. Ralph Hawkins, an internal medicine specialist in Alberta who sees and treats many Lyme patients. Lloyd and Hawkins estimate that only between three and four per cent of the cases of Lyme disease in Canada are being documented. It also shows that the number of people with Lyme disease in Nova Scotia could be as much as 10 to 30 times higher than official government statistics show. For every case of diagnosed Lyme there could be nine to 29 people who are undiagnosed/misdiagnosed; this translates into 90 per cent being undiagnosed. Huge problem!

It is important to know that the problem is not just Borrelia burgdorferi, i.e. Lyme disease, as Lyme never travels alone and ticks can carry a mix of many diseases, including a variety of strains of Borrelia, Bartonella, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever RMSF, Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia and more, including other viruses and parasites. Unfortunately, there are doctors who know very little about zoonotics and vector-borne diseases, or have never heard of them. I have been asked on numerous occasions what is Bartonella? Doctors may have heard of Cat Scratch Fever but they do not know there are over 30 different strains of Bartonella.

Lyme testing in Canada has been shown to be inaccurate and this fact was published in a Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter back in 2012 saying that sensitivity is only about 50 per cent. Shall we toss a coin? There are Canadian doctors who say American testing is flawed and American doctors are wrong. Most doctors here know absolutely nothing about American Lyme testing, only what they are told by Dr. Strang, chief medical officer of Health for NS. There are still Canadian doctors saying no problem here — wrong answer. Things must change.

People also need to know that Lyme disease can be passed from mother to fetus. This is a well-established and acknowledged fact, except by Strang. Much evidence exists documenting and acknowledging that mother to fetus Lyme disease does occur. The French Health minister in the French parliament acknowledged this fact just this summer. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year added, “Congenital Lyme Borreliosis (a baby born with Lyme disease) to the international coding structure for physicians worldwide.” Dr. Strang has said no evidence of mother to fetus infection. Clearly, he is not up-to-date on his knowledge of what is happening around the world, and at the WHO, which is troubling.

Some patients in NS have been ridiculed by our doctors when they have had questions about the possibility of having chronic Lyme disease, and have even been asked, “Oh, are you part of the Lyme cult?” How utterly patronizing, condescending and offensive. What about the “cult of denial and misinformation regarding Lyme disease that emanates from our government departments” and health-care providers?

Education is key!

Brenda Sterling-Goodwin

New Glasgow