Oh Bugger: Lyme is Now in Alberta

When I moved to Canmore from Calgary in 1995, it was well known among my friends to check for ticks in the spring time after a day out in the mountains, because they could carry Rocky Mountain Fever. No one was very concerned about Lyme disease – we were taught that it didn’t exist in Alberta. That story is now changing. Lyme disease, a debilitating illness spreadby ticks, is on the rise worldwide and is spreading into new areas of Canada, including Alberta.

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Taken one day when a friend moved my mattress out onto the sunny, colourful front lawn in the fall at a time I was having trouble standing and sitting.

Identifying and Treating Lyme: a Puzzle for Canadians

Since Lyme disease is easily treatable if caught within days of the tick bite, and later stage cases are more likely to become long term and complex to treat, early identification is key. But Lyme is not yet on the radar of all physicians in Canada and early cases are frequently missed.

The Canadian health care system is also mired in a controversy between the Infectious disease doctors of America (IDSA) standards of care and the standards developed by the international Lyme and associated diseases society (ILADS):

  • The IDSA refutes the existence of chronic Lyme disease and the ability to treat a patient in the long-term.
  • The ILADS trained doctors are treating chronic cases with high success rates and calling for a change in treatment protocols.

Opinions about Lyme disease therefore vary widely among Canadian doctors, confusing those seeking help. Also, Canadian standards currently presented to infectious doctors are based on the IDSA protocols, so they typically will not treat long term lyme, creating huge resource gaps for late stage Lyme patients. Many Canadians (including myself) seek help in the States because they cannot find a specialist in Canada.

Back in the days when I was healthy and climbing.

Back in the days when I was healthy and climbing.

The Good News

Elizabeth May recently passed a private members bill that makes the creation of a national Lyme disease strategy law.  May explains, “the federal Minister of Health is now required to convene a federal/provincial/territorial conference, including medical experts and representatives of the Lyme Disease community, before the end of 2015. The goals include developing better strategies for prevention, speedy diagnosis, best standard of care for treatment, and further data collection and research.” I have high hopes that this process will lead to more extensive resources for Canadians with Lyme.

For more about Sarah’s story and for some insider Lyme prevention tips (including what to present to your doctor if they are hesitant to explore Lyme), visit Sarah’s blog at: foxnsox.wordpress.com

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Sarah Hutchison

Sarah’s hometown is Canmore, AB in the Rocky Mountains. Her yard smells like lodgepole pines and sometimes she has the fine luck of bears, deer and squirrels walking through it. Sarah is a psychologist and avid outdoorswoman recovering from Lymes disease and a coinfection called Bartonella. Twelve-hour alpine climbs are on the backburner but 100 meter slow walks in the forest happen most days.