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'I’m here as a sign of hope': Nationwide effort aims for Lyme disease education
A nationwide effort was held Saturday aiming to educate the public about Lyme disease, with VOCAL – Voices of Canadians About Lyme – holding awareness events.
The blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease are being seen in increasing numbers in the Maritimes.
Last summer, John Aske found a tick on his leg after cutting grass in Bedford, N.S.
"I was showering or something afterwards, and I found this tick that was just lodged in my thigh,” says John. “I didn't feel anything, didn't feel a prick, or a bite, or anything like that."
The tick was removed quickly, but a week later John developed the characteristic bull's-eye rash of Lyme disease. His family recognized it and got some advice.
"She told us to go to a certain medical clinic where they knew a little bit more about treating this,” says John’s mother Heather Aske. “She told us to get three weeks of antibiotics instead of the two."
John's problem was cleared up, but others have not been as lucky.
April Pasley spoke about living with Lyme disease at VOCAL’s Dalhousie University event Saturday. She was born with it because her mother was already infected, and now lives with full-blown symptoms.
"Like someone's driving an icepick in your elbow, and grinding it in there some days. Some days I can't walk on my feet they're so sore, cognitive issues,” says Pasley. “Sometimes I’m driving and I forget what I’m doing, where I’m going."
Tracy Cochrane struggled for three years to get a diagnosis, until she began travelling to see a doctor in Maine.
"I went through the Canadian medical system and I didn't get better,” says Cochrane. “I eventually went to the States and now I’m better, so really I’m here, kind of as a sign of hope."
Cochrane’s doctor says a new approach is needed in the Maritimes.
"The number one goal is, like in Maine, there's a law written that allows doctors to write long-term antibiotics upon making a clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease,” says Dr. Richard Dubocq.
In 2015, there were around 250 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia, and approximately 11 in New Brunswick, but experts at Saturday’s VOCAL panel said that does not reflect reality.
Dr. Dubocq claims there is resistance to the idea of Lyme disease in the Canadian medical community.
"There’s a disease, that's controversial, and the infectious disease specialists simply are not listening to what's going on around them."
One thing the entire medical community does seem to agree on is there is not enough known about Lyme disease. Diagnosis is often difficult because there are no truly effective blood tests or treatment.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.