Canada’s Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease passes 2nd reading in the senate.

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

 

Hon. Janis G. Johnson moved second reading of Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease.

She said: Honourable senators, it is a great honour to address Bill C-442, An Act respecting a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease.

I thank Elizabeth May, member of Parliament, for asking me to do this and her leadership for giving me the honour to do so.

This proposed legislation is laudable, given that the disease has gone from being an anomaly roughly 40 years ago, to a growing risk to the health of Canadians today.

Researchers note that the geographic range of Lyme disease- carrying ticks has expanded from a small pocket in the northeast of the United States to a wide southern area of Canada.

In light of potentially serious health care issues, this bill focuses national attention on preventing and mitigating Lyme disease across Canada. It offers constructive suggestions about what more can be done to help prevent, identify and treat the disease.

Honourable senators, there is no question that Bill C-442 has struck a chord, and because of this, the federal government has recently enhanced its leadership role in responding to Lyme disease. Key elements proposed in the bill align well with the government’s Action Plan on Lyme Disease.

The goals of the action plan are twofold: to prevent Lyme disease and to ensure that cases are treated in the early stages of the disease.

As such, the government is actively collaborating with the provinces and territories, non-governmental and leading health professional organizations, such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Nurses Association, to deal with the growing health risk posed by Lyme disease.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recognizes that effective protection, prevention and control of Lyme disease require a coordinated, multi-partner and stakeholder engagement approach. The agency is providing national leadership, building consensus, mobilizing partnerships, strengthening surveillance and promoting education and awareness through this action plan, which focuses on three pillars: engagement, education and awareness; surveillance, prevention and control; and research and diagnosis. These three areas are consistent with the key elements of Bill C-442 and are already delivering results.

The agency has a well-established approach to national surveillance for both ticks and human cases of Lyme disease. To enhance its surveillance, prevention and control, the agency is consulting with stakeholders regarding improving prevention efforts, public health guidelines and reference tools on Lyme disease to reflect the latest scientific evidence and best practices.

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Equally important, federally funded research is increasing our understanding of Lyme disease. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in connection with domestic and international partners, will explore new science and research to better detect, diagnose and treat Lyme disease among Canadians. This will assist medical professionals and provincial laboratories in their diagnosis of the disease.

Honourable senators, there is a need to help the public recognize the dangers of being bitten by ticks and how to prevent and treat tick bites. Removing infected ticks within 48 hours significantly reduces the risk of developing Lyme disease. We heard that some people do not visit their doctor following a bite, either because they do not notice it or because the early symptoms of Lyme disease can be difficult to identify. Many assume they have the flu and don’t get any treatment.

The Canadian Public Health Agency is working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to engage health professionals on Lyme disease by increasing their knowledge to diagnose and treat it in its early stages.

Diagnostic testing in the early stages of Lyme disease does not always detect the disease because the immune system has not yet developed antibodies, which the blood tests read, thereby potentially rendering inaccurate results. Thus, the Public Health Agency of Canada has committed to looking at new diagnostic methods, as they become available, to better diagnose Lyme disease in Canadians, and diagnostic methods are critical.

Currently, there are no vaccines commercially available that prevent this disease in humans. Until one is available, the government’s public awareness campaign recommends that Canadians, particularly in areas where blacklegged ticks are known to occur, be vigilant in protecting themselves by wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin. These are currently the best measures to guard against Lyme disease.

In most cases, the disease can be cured with immediate antibiotic treatment and, as it is an emerging disease in Canada, there seems to be a low level of awareness of how to diagnose and treat the disease by Canadian physicians.

Honourable senators, early and accurate diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent the onset of serious health problems. If left untreated, this disease can permanently change a person’s health, leaving them with chronic illnesses like arthritis and heart disease and many neurological disorders.

Understanding this, the Public Health Agency is reviewing the current body of evidence on Lyme disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment and will work with partners to support new research to address gaps. The agency is also investing in research to find new strains and pathogens of tick-borne diseases, as well as enhanced surveillance to identify new risk areas to better inform Canadians.

The provisions set out in Bill C-442 are well-aligned with what the federal government is doing to effectively address Lyme disease. Through the Action Plan on Lyme Disease, the federal government has demonstrated concrete action to effectively address this serious disease. The Federal Framework on Lyme Disease proposed in this bill will better equip the government to further fulfil its leadership role in addressing this disease head-on.

Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Campbell, debate adjourned.)

  1. Michelle Millar on said:

    I have been affected by ticks and the pathogens they spew into the blood stream. Three years ago my spouse and I were bit. He died thirteen days after what we thought was the on set of the flu. I have been very sick since then. Off work for two years, in bed most days, headaches, chronic fatigue, parallisis, rashes, aching joints and muscles, stabbing pains, chills and night sweats…the list goes on and on….only to be dismissed by the physicians in Manitoba as I was repeatedly given prescriptions for antidepressants…as I was only grieving….was what they kept telling me. I sent my blood to the USA, to find out it was Lyme and co infections..I was treated with antibiotics and am able to function at this time. The testing for Lyme with the ELISA test is not reliable as health Canada has stated in the past, however the physicians in Canada don’t know that…or do and are told to follow the results.
    In the USA it was stated that 30,000 persons were infected with LYME every year. last year they changed that number to 300,000 persons infected with Lyme every year….ticks are blind, they cannot see the border between USA and Canada…many people are suffering not only physically,mentally but financially too as it is very expensive to get help outside of Canada.

  2. Verna McDonald on said:

    Thank you to all working for a Canadian up-date to current international (ILADS) standards for diagnosis, early treatment and follow up for prevention of the complex and debilitating effects of Lyme disease and co-infections.

    I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about this emerging epidemic and the complex nature of diagnosis and treatment in the past year since my leg went rose red, then swelled to become hard like a fence post. It is very hard to get treatment fast enough to stop the aggressive bacterial and co-infection march of borrelia bergdefori and company, particularly in rural Canada.

    Lyme literate doctors, specialists working with naturopaths and allopathic medicine, and clinics with success records need to unite with researchers to come up with a wide variety of successful protocols. Being effective with treating the co-factors in resistant Lyme, and long term studies in this area could save a great deal of money and human resources in the future.

    Thank you for all your efforts in education, legislation, equity of treatment and staying mindful of the major costs we are incurring for the future if we do not act now.

    Verna

  3. Dianne Carlson on said:

    Passing on info re re-scheduling of Senate hearings on Lyme Bill C-442. I rec’d this reply from Senator Kelvin Ogilvie very quickly after writing to him about the Senate hearings. I hope you’ll write to all Senators re Bill C-442, also. It’s very important that each & every one of them hear from each Canadian concerned.

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    The events of the past week prevented our committee from reviewing the Bill. As a result we will have to reschedule our hearings.

    However, I am confident of the Bill’s progress. I know a great deal about the Lyme issue as my son contracted it about 3 years ago.

    I regret the delay but we expect to get it back on the agenda for the first week of December.

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