FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BC Lyme disease victims rally at the legislature
Victoria, BC, May 15, 2008 – Scores of Lyme disease victims rallied today at the BC Legislature calling for better medical treatment. Identified by lime green wristbands the protesters called on Health Minister George Abbott to implement better diagnostic guidelines and improve training for doctors.
Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in North America. The United States reports over 20,000 cases annually, and estimates the disease is likely under-reported by at least six-fold. In stark contrast, in Canada approximately 30 cases are identified yearly, with between four and six cases being reported annually in BC.
One of the key controversies about the illness in BC relates to the accuracy of provincial Lyme disease blood tests. Many of the people in attendance at the rally have tested negative for Lyme disease in BC, but have tested positive for the disease with licensed accredited laboratories in the US. Without a positive blood test people don’t receive treatment in BC, although Lyme disease is supposed to be a clinical diagnosis.
“A tick-bitten person with Lyme disease symptoms cannot get a clinical diagnosis in B.C. today,” said NDP MLA David Cubberley. “It’s wrong that sick people are being denied a cure and forced to suffer the horrendous effects of a debilitating disease.”
Lyme disease, when caught early can usually be easily cured with a few weeks of antibiotics. However, if left untreated it can develop into arthritis, meningitis, heart abnormalities and other serious illnesses. Lyme disease is named after the Connecticut town of Lyme, where it was discovered in 1975.
“Authorities here think infected ticks need a passport to get into Canada, unfortunately, we know that is not the case,” commented Robyn Westle, a Lyme disease victim from Victoria “Although I displayed classic symptoms of the disease doctors here were unable
to diagnose and treat me. To get treatment for myself and my family I have had to spend thousands of dollars in the United States.”
The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control has found ticks carrying Lyme disease throughout the southern portion of the province including Vancouver, Burnaby, Victoria, Campbell River, Duncan, Hope, Langley, Lions Bay, Port Moody, White Rock and the Gulf Islands, the Okanagan, and the Kootenays. Several people at the rally contracted Lyme disease after hiking the West Coast Trail and some in their own yards.
“What we need is an open review of the BC policy on Lyme disease testing and diagnosis,” said Jim Wilson, president of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. “Instead, we are relying on the Infectious Disease Society of America who recently were ordered by a US Attorney General to reassess their guidelines due to conflicts of interest and bias.”
Speakers at the rally, which started at 1:00pm and was held at the rear of the legislative grounds included NDP MLA David Cubberly, NDP MLA Doug Routley, Jim Wilson, Dr. Ernie Murakami, a retired Lyme disease practitioner, and Robyn Westle, and Shannon Goertzen two BC Lyme disease victims.
The rally was organized by the Lower Mainland Lyme Awareness Support group and the Victoria Lyme Support group with help from the Vancouver Lyme Support group.
For more information please visit: www.canlyme.com
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Lyme disease is a serious threat Lyme disease is on the rise in Canada, yet treatment and public awareness are largely inadequate. Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme) is dedicated to raising awareness and promoting Lyme research, education and treatment.
For more information please call:
Gwen Barlee, Lyme disease patient, 604-202-0322 (c) or 604-879-2473 (h)
David Cubberley, Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation Director, 250-818-1129
Jim Wilson, President Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, 250-768-0978