May: Raising Awareness about Lyme Disease

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and Green Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands) is doing her part to help.

May will introduce a Private Member’s Bill calling for the development of a national strategy to address the challenges of the timely recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme disease.  The bill also calls for funding for provinces and territories to implement the strategy.

“Lyme disease can be devastating. Too many Canadians are now disabled, deprived of the joy of family and friends, of school or work, due to Lyme disease.  The public and the medical community need to be educated as to the increasing incidence and range of this disease,” said May.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is that is spread to humans and animals through the bite of certain types of ticks, particularly the black-legged tick.  Notoriously under-diagnosed and under-reported, the disease can cause serious symptoms if left untreated including recurring arthritis and neurological problems.  

The risk of exposure to Lyme disease is highest in parts of southern and south-eastern Quebec, southern and eastern Ontario, south-eastern Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and much of southern British Columbia.

Warming temperatures are leading the increase in range for the black legged tick.  Scientists are endeavouring to create enhanced surveillance tools, such as risk maps.  A national strategy could support this work and ensure that people can be vigilant in areas where the tick is becoming established.  If doctors know that the local risk has increased, they can help with early diagnosis and prevention.

Early treatment of antibiotics can avoid potentially serious long-term disabilities or even death.  Chronic Lyme disease requires improved diagnostic testing and treatment.

“Scientists are warning that a warming climate will expand the geographic range of Lyme disease-carrying ticks further into Canada, so it is imperative that we are proactive,” said May.