Lyme talk draws crowd searching for answers

Community Featured

Nearly 400 people heard from American doctors about Lyme disease and how to treat it during a series of Lyme talks on Friday at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.

About 300 people crowded the community room that evening to hear presentations by Dr. Richard Dubocq from Maine and Dr. Marty Ross from Texas. Dubocq and Ross addressed more than 80 health professionals at a private session in the afternoon.

“This was definitely a success,” said Amy Hayne-Desjardins, who organized the events with fellow Lyme advocate Jennifer MacLean. “There were more health professionals than I expected. It was totally strategic to have the private session so they could come and feel they could speak openly.”

Previous Lyme information sessions had not attracted doctors and other health professionals the way this one did.

Meanwhile, Hayne-Desjardins said she is already working on how to continue the momentum from last week’s events and follow up in a meaningful way.

Dubocq urged the crowd to force Nova Scotia to enact legislation like Maine has to allow physicians to treat Lyme disease in a way that does not jeopardize their right to practise medicine.

“That is my next goal, Hayne-Desjardin said. “I’m going to put my energy into protecting our Lyme-literate doctors. There are so many people who want action at many levels. We have to pick the right one.”

MacLean said she was uplifted by the large crowd and its level of engagement.

“I think a lot of people got the information they needed to move toward,” she said.

Ross told the gathering he was forced to leave Seattle over how he treated Lyme disease. He moved his practice to Austin, Texas but has since been able to return to Seattle.

He discussed the risks of tick bites that can lead to Lyme disease in people, the assorted symptoms, testing, ruling out other maladies, physical fitness, diet, avoiding stress and seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

“Lyme is always a clinical diagnosis,” he said.

Part of the risk of Lyme disease is that more than half of Lyme patients do not remember getting a tick bite, he said. He added that one in five people with Lyme disease do not have a positive test and disputed the conventional prescription of two antibiotic pills as being sufficient treatment.

“There has been inadequate research to show the two-pill regime works,” he said.

Risks of getting Lyme disease depend on endemic areas for Lyme-carrying vectors, bites, outdoor activities, family members with Lyme, transmission during pregnancy and sexual contact with a Lyme victim, although the matter is subject ongoing debate. Other vectors — such as mosquitoes, mites and fleas — could also transfer the disease, he said.

“You don’t get it through casual contact,” he said.

He supported claims by a growing number of health care professionals, including homeopaths, favouring IGenex testing and that Elisa and Western blot testing is ineffective in detecting Lyme disease.

He also described some herbs that help people sleep and assist their diet.

Dubocq emphasized aggressive, long-term treatment with a wide variety of antibiotics for any tick bite to eradicate Lyme disease.

“If a patient is positive, I treat. If the patient is negative, I treat,” he said. “I like the take no prisoners approach.”

He said no two Lyme patients present the same symptoms and that immediate antibiotic treatment following a clinical diagnosis should supersede unnecessary testing.

“In Canada, physicians who offer long-term antibiotic treatment are risking their careers,” he said. “That’s not right. They’re just trying to get people better.”

He said the Lyme bacteria cells take six times as long as pneumonia to multiply, so longer treatment is needed.

“If it takes 10 days to treat pneumonia, it takes 600 days to treat Lyme,” he said. “Treating Lyme is a marathon. It is not a sprint.”

Jennifer MacLean, left, and fellow organizer Amy Hayne-Desjardins are at the podium accepting applause from the gathering as well as podium speakers. On the left is Jim Wilson from CanLyme, with MacLean and Hayne-Desjardins, and doctors Marty Ross and Richard Dubocq. (Goodwin photo)