Information is power, even when your enemy can be barely larger than a grain of sand.
MP Tracey Ramsey and MPP Taras Natyshak will host a free information session about Lyme disease Wednesday at Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Kingsville. The guest speaker will be Michael Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, another endemic area for the disease spread by ticks.
“Our region has been identified as a high-risk area,” Ramsey said Monday. She said her constituency office is contacted every week by someone having difficulty getting help for the disease locally. “People are going to the U.S. for diagnosis and treatment,” Ramsey said. “People should be able to be diagnosed and treatment in our own country.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of blacklegged ticks, formerly known as deer ticks. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, numbness and swollen lymph nodes. A skin rash resembling a red bull’s eye develops where the tick penetrated the skin.
The disease is often misdiagnosed, written off as flu or fatigue, or more serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia. There is no cure once it becomes a chronic condition.
Cheryl Abbatte of the Sun County Lyme Awareness Support Group, said events like Wednesday’s is vital to raising awareness about the disease.
If she knew in 2007 what she knows now about the disease, Abbatte would not still be struggling from the fallout of a late diagnosis and treatment that began too late to keep her condition from becoming chronic, she said.
Most Canadian doctors aren’t well-versed in the disease, Abbatte said, leaving patients to go out of the country for help. Because of that, diagnosis statistics in Canada are woefully inaccurate.
According to the Ontario Ministry of health, 363 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease last year. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says two of those people were from this area.
But Abbatte says she has new patients contacting her support group all the time. Currently, more than 200 people from Windsor and Essex and Kent counties are members of the organization.
Canada’s standards of care for Lyme disease differ from those in the United States, Abbatte said, explaining why local people routinely go to Michigan for treatment. Blood tests differ and doctors locally might only prescribe the needed antibiotics for 21 to 28 days according to Health Canada regulations even though symptoms persist. “Doctors have more of a free hand in the U.S.,” she said, explaining the medication regime there might include courses of the needed antibiotic for months until the symptoms go away.
Wednesday’s information session will be held in Colasanti’s Willow Room. It begins at 6:30 p.m.