July 5, 2012 5:41 pm

Scientist says B.C. is on the verge of a Lyme disease explosion


For anyone heading into the backcountry this weekend, or even doing some gardening around the house, be aware of a growing risk.

A scientist with the Public Health Agency says we are on the verge of an explosion of Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks.

Reporter Elaine Yong met a woman named Gwen Barlee, who has suffered with Lyme disease for more than six years. She is a stickler for healthy eating because it helps to control the symptoms of the disease.

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“I was so cognitively impaired, and my headaches were so bad. I’d get migraine headaches that would last for three or four days, and they’d be rolling around on the ground type of headaches,” said Barlee.

“I just didn’t know what was going on, I felt like I was dying.”

But the toughest part of Barlee’s medical journey has been advocating for better diagnosis and treatment in B.C.

She claims doctors in Canada don’t recognize symptoms, and don’t always know how to treat it.

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Symptoms are wide ranging, from fever, headache and fatigue.

“If you don’t get appropriate diagnosis and treatment for Lyme disease in the early stages, before the tick has disseminated, before it’s gone out of the blood stream and into other tissues of the body, then it becomes really really difficult to treat,” said Barlee.

At least one federal researcher has recently stated he fears an explosion in Lyme disease cases with global warming, our provincial health officer insists the situation in B.C. is under control.

“Clearly we have seen significant increases in infected ticks,” said Dr. Perry Kendall. However, he added that while that is the case throughout the rest of the country, that is not the case for B.C.

And there is continuing controversy surrounding two main issues; one is the current testing methods used in canada.

The other is the existence of so-called chronic Lyme disease, which as in Barlee’s case lasts for years.

But patients have found support from Green Party MP Elizabeth May.

She has tabled a private members bill calling for a national strategy.

For Barlee, natural supplements are working. She couldn’t afford to head to the U.S. for treatment like many other patients have been forced to do.

But she vows to keep fighting for better care at home.

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