Lyme group feels let down after Somers’ presentation

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PICTOU — Members of a Lyme disease support group say they are not happy with a recent presentation by a medical health officer.

Dr. Ryan Sommers, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s medical health officer for Northern Nova Scotia, addressed Pictou County Municipal Council’s recent finance committee meeting.

But Lyme advocate Amy Hayne said she questions some of Sommers’ information and his refusal at this point to attend a conference scheduled for September 6 at the Pictou County Wellness Centre. Some of its presenters include a doctor in Maine who is treating 30 Pictou County residents for Lyme and other tick-borne bacterial diseases, but there is no indication that Sommers or any other physician will attend.

“I think this meeting illustrates why physicians need to attend this event,” she said. “Every day, it gets a little more frightening. People are wondering where to get treatment elsewhere because they can’t get it here.”

Sommers said after the meeting that he sees no need to attend the conference, based on his information regarding Lyme disease. He said he would consider attending if Dr. Todd Hatchett agrees to go. Hatchett is division head and service chief for microbiology for the NSHA’s central division.

“I need to see something that will get my attention,” he said.

Jennifer MacLean, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in January, said she found much of Sommers’ information outdated.

“I’m feeling better since I got treatment in Maine in February,” she said. “We need better testing more clinic diagnosis and more help from our physicians.”

Sommers said education and prevention are the keys to reducing the incidence of Lyme through measures that include tick checks, landscape changes.

He discounted authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere who recommend between six to eight weeks of antibiotics for those who receive a tick bite, before confirming if the tick is positive or negative for Lyme.

He also recommended four to six weeks before testing and said there is no evidence supporting long-term antibiotics use.

“Long-term antibiotics use is hazardous and can cause other complications,” he said, while acknowledging that “our system is not well designed to tell what is wrong with (Lyme) patients.”

He also questioned why people with symptoms associated with Lyme and other diseases are seeking treatment that is not recognized in Nova Scotia or elsewhere in Canada.

“People spend thousands of dollars on unapproved treatment,” he said. “People are making money out of this.”

Warden Robert Parker began council’s question period by noting the wide gap between people with Lyme disease and how the health care system deals with it.

“People have a fear that their doctors are not up front with them,” he said.

“We physicians need to do a better job of telling people how we reach decisions,” Sommers responded.

“It’s like the climate change debate,” he said after Coun. Darla MacKeil asked why there is such a wide difference of opinion in the medical community over Lyme disease.

From left: Jennifer MacLean and Amy Hayne discuss Lyme disease with Dr. Ryan Sommers. (Goodwin photo)