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Lyme Disease Alert – Alberta Issues Warning

tick lyme disease western blacklegged albertaHealth officials in Alberta, Canada, have warned that ticks carrying Lyme disease have been identified in the province. Five ticks removed from pets in Calgary, High River, and Edmonton tested positive for Borrelia bacteria sparking a flurry of concern over what some have called a growing epidemic so far ignored by the Public Health Authority of Canada (PHAC). Ticks taken from the four dogs and a cat were sent to local laboratories by veterinarians for testing as part of a standard research protocol set up to detect such infectious diseases. Ticks identified as western blacklegged ticks (the major Lyme disease vector in North America) were then sent to the national microbiology lab and found to be infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease bacteria. More than twenty-five ticks carrying Lyme disease have been identified since the research began in 2007 after the first case of a Lyme disease-carrying tick was reported.

However, just twenty cases of Lyme disease in humans in Alberta were reported between 1989 and 2008, and no cases of Lyme disease have been reported in the province since 2008. This has led to expressions of concern regarding underdiagnosis of Lyme disease by doctors working in Alberta. Official statements stress that those cases of Lyme disease in Albertans may have been due to tick bites that occurred outside of the province. Only adult ticks infected with Lyme have been found in Alberta, suggesting that they represent a transient infected tick population that has been brought into the area by migratory birds. Should infected nymphal stage ticks be found the scientists may be more likely to consider these areas as having a permanent tick population infected with Lyme disease.

The Perils of Untreated Lyme Disease

Untreated Lyme disease can lead to severe symptoms in humans and animals, including pet dogs and cats, and may, in a small number of cases, prove fatal. Neurological Lyme disease complications can occur, along with heart irregularities, Lyme arthritis, musculoskeletal issues, and even liver or kidney damage in some patients. The chief medical officer of Alberta, Andre Corriveau, has stressed that Lyme disease prevention is of utmost importance and advises everyone to use insect repellent, to wear protective clothing when in tick-endemic areas, and to remain alert for symptoms of early stage Lyme disease infection, such as the erythema migrans (Bull’s-eye) rash often seen following a tick bite. Other early symptoms include a flu-like illness with fever, lethargy, chills, shaking, and loss of appetite.

Ticks in Alberta and other Canadian Provinces

Ticks carrying the Lyme disease bacteria require a succession of animal hosts to complete their life-cycle and it is thought that the migration of birds across the country, and from the US, has been instrumental in introducing infected ticks to provinces such as Alberta and Ontario. British Columbia has also had a number of Lyme disease cases in recent years and there are many calling for improvements in the training of physicians to improve their ability to recognize Lyme disease symptoms and provide adequate Lyme disease treatment.

There are problems with testing for Lyme disease however, with some Canadian patients choosing to send their bloodwork to laboratories in the US, such as Igenex, for testing rather than rely on less-experienced Canadian laboratories. Blood tests for Lyme disease are notoriously inaccurate, particularly in the first few weeks of infection while antibodies are still building to detectable levels in a patient. Delaying treatment can compromise the patients’ health however, and the reluctance of doctors to prescribe antibiotics in cases of suspected, but unconfirmed, Lyme disease is only reinforced by silence on the matter from PHAC.

Lyme Disease Unreported and Under-Recognized

Finding infected ticks in Alberta might be the push that is needed for the Canadian health offices at both regional and national levels to increase efforts at raising tick awareness, physician education, and patient support. A report from the BC Medical Journal in March 2011 found that many doctors had not received sufficient training to recognize Lyme disease in patients, thereby resulting in fewer officially reported cases. This creates a catch-22 situation where low reported case numbers give a false sense of security over Lyme disease prevalence and hinder any attempts to increase funding into research and recognition of the disease.

Meanwhile, many cases of Lyme disease go unrecognized or unreported and patients are not treated appropriately. Chronic Lyme disease in Canada may be on the rise and, without a critical mass of cases, little is likely to be done about it by either provincial or national health officials. Perhaps the discovery of Lyme disease-carrying ticks in Alberta will reignite calls to develop a national strategy for Lyme disease prevention and treatment and save many Canadians from having to travel to the US for therapy.

Anyone finding a tick on themselves or their pet should carefully remove the tick and take it to their veterinarian or doctor for testing. This can help health officials gain a better insight into the presence of Lyme disease in an area and may aid in influencing health policy. Albertans who suspect they have Lyme disease should contact HealthLink Alberta, at 1-866-408-5465.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Sherry (email name) February 8, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Hi Justin. Like you, they are going to refuse to treat me for Lyme disease because IGENEX is obviously corrupt. The reason they are corrupt is because nearly every patient who asked to be tested for Lyme came back positive as I did, at least on one of the two Western blots (as well as on two Canadian Elisa tests). Because IGENEX found the results positive they will not recognize it of course.

    I find it odd, that in a province that has more MS cases than just about any place in the world, (which usually correlate with Lyme) we also have the lowest rate of Lyme disease. It’s no wonder IGENEX is finding so many Albertans positive! Likely thousands here are contaminated and won’t know it for another 10 years until their blood platelets start falling and falling like mine, and they start experiencing extremely severe muscle spasms and have 100 different symptoms and a few deadly diseases. It bothers me that few people realize it’s worse than syphilis in the fact that it acts the very same way but is the most clever masquerader on earth, so it can take up to 10 or 15 years before most people have it and by then most will have a number of other killer diseases.

    This disease is so smart it knows exactly where the lines of the Alberta border are and stops right at those lines, even though it’s the fastest growing infectious disease in the world. Next it will be teaching geography classes to all of us. I’m trying to find the map that showed that. Don’t know whether it was on your site or elsewhere.

    Also, that HealthLink number you have on your web site – 1-866-408-5465 for HealthLink Alberta — Do you know exactly where that takes you? Does it take you to the same place as (403) 943-LINK except that it’s a toll free number? I don’t know what Health Link would be able to do anyway, except send you to an Infectious Disease specialist who will/did deny Lyme anyway and will refuse to accept any IGENEX results.

    I’m so shocked at how little Alberta doctors know about Lyme. Many still spell it LIME, and most don’t know the difference between Borellia, Babesia, and Burgdorferi. In fact, most have never seen an admitted Lyme patient so when one comes forward they are so terrified that they automatically begin to act very strangely, as if the victim had a disease worse than Ebola. No one wants to touch it with a 10-foot pole. I also found it odd that the infectious disease specialist wasn’t even allowed by the Alberta government to see a copy of the Western blot bands. He wasn’t even allowed to send for it. He said I would have to get that from my doctor and of course my doctor said, “Well if they won’t give him a copy why would they give men one?” It was true, what he said. Those are Alberta rules. Only your own doctor can get them. Specialists are kept blind so they will never understand what they are doing.

    I find this shocking. I suppose you went through the very same thing. (We have spoken before)

    You know, in province that is known to have one of the highest MS cases in the world (which is generally connected with Lyme, it’s not at all suprising that IGENEX finds so many people positive. Albertans could be the world’s greatest spreaders of Lyme, with likey thousands having it and not being diagnosed. How many people here have it now? Three out of over three million, according to our own great testing?

    Out of all of that we consider ourselves world experts at treating it — such experts in fact that we can cure it totally with Doxycyline for a couple of weeks. (I think the web page says three but I was told two). You would think people around the world would be flocking her for treatment wouldn’t you, were it not for the fact that most of the world’s experts would agree.

    But I guess when we have only about three Lyme cases here, that does make us the experts at determining it. Now who has the most motivation for being corrupt here — Alberta or Igenex? It’s a good thing governments can’t be charged for deliberately killing their own people. They are lucky. Dr. Raj Sherman also realizes how lucky they are, obviously, as well as do the courts who won’t act and insist that the Alberta government have a public health inquiry even though the opposition has demanded it.

  • Sherry (email name) February 8, 2013, 5:47 pm

    Sorry, I said “most of the world experts would agree.” Meant disagree.

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