Lyme disease at the forefront during New Brunswick roundtable tick discussion

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WATCH: Tick season is among us, and health officials say the number of ticks is increasing across the Maritimes. As Morganne Campbell explains, many of the ticks come with the risk of contracting Lyme disease – May 23, 2019

New Brunswick’s Green Party hosted a roundtable discussion on Lyme disease and how to deal with a growing problem in the province — the blacklegged tick.

The blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is known to carry Borrelia, the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

“One of our infectious diseases doctors here in New Brunswick said that we have with the Lyme disease, a diagnostic dilemma,” explains Green Party Leader David Coon, on Thursday.

“And that really goes to the heart of this in a way that there are a significant percentage of people who get bitten by an infected tick who fall through the cracks and don’t get diagnosed.”

READ MORE: Tick-tock: Ticks are spreading across Canada. Here are their new homes

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Coon is floating the idea of creating a health and wellness committee within the Legislative Assembly that would allow for politicians, members of the public and experts to weigh in on different health issues, with Lyme being one of them.

The committee would then make recommendations that could be considered by the government.

“Our public healthcare system should be dealing with this appropriately and it’s not clearly, and it needs to,” added Coon.

One of the patients who shared her story on Thursday was Cathie Smith, an avid hiker and camper.

Smith was bitten by a tick in the late 1990s, which has led to several health complications and impedes her ability to walk properly.

“I hiked almost every weekend in Fundy Park, tented — you know, did all kinds of stuff,” explained Smith, a retiree who currently lives in Riverview.

A former licensed practical nurse, Smith has spent nearly $70,000 on testing and treatment south of the border in Maine and places even farther abroad.

“I didn’t think our government was like that; I thought Canada was above all of that. It’s been pretty awful,” said Smith, who often struggles with pressure buildup in her head due to the disease.

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When it comes to Lyme, diagnosis is tough. The symptoms mirror how you would feel if you had the flu with the exception of a rash.

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Patients report feeling fatigued, fever, chill, headache and aches and pains.

If left untreated, Lyme can cause a slew of complications including neurological disorders.

The testing approach in Canada meets international standards, although many patients travel south for blood testing.

“There’s no simple solution to address this complex problem,” explains Anthony Knight, the CEO of the New Brunswick Medical Society.

“The testing approach in Canada falls along the international guidelines that are applied in the UK and other European nations as well so we have confidence in the testing approach.”

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Blacklegged ticks have been located in six different counties across the province, including York County which borders Fredericton.

READ MORE: How ticks have spread across Ontario

“For the public education and awareness and education of physicians and whatnot, that is a huge component of trying to protect the population from Lyme disease,” explains Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s medical officer of health.

Russell has also been pushing for more public awareness campaigns on ticks and the risks associated with coming in contact with them.

New Brunswickers are being reminded to take protect against tick bites and check for ticks after coming indoors, remove ticks safely, and act if you have symptoms of tick-borne diseases.

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