Government bafflegab bothers me, especially when the health of young school-age children is at stake. On March 11, Health P.E.I. officials featured on CBC’s (Mis)Information Morning downplayed the true risk of Lyme Disease on P.E.I. and claimed that current diagnostic blood tests being used here for detecting this serious tick-borne disease are very effective. They also cast doubt on the effectiveness of more sophisticated testing in the U.S., suggesting that only a gullible hypochondriac would be crazy enough to cross the border in search of a cure. This Health P.E.I. info would be laughable, were it not so tragically mistaken.
Imagine 100 persons infected with Lyme disease, whose tainted blood could create an identical serious disease if injected into some other healthy person. Health P.E.I. officials admit that the current screening blood test called ELISA only detects about half of these “true positive” Lyme cases, yet wrongly categorizes the remaining 50 cases who might have otherwise been detected with more accurate reliable blood tests as “false positives.”
This is nonsense. More sophisticated reliable blood tests that are available in U.S. and European labs are able to detect many more of the truly diseased Lyme cases, as well as other concurrent tick-borne disease. In addition, U.S. physicians in Maine are now able to prescribe additional doses of long-term antibiotics where necessary (since 2015) – while no Canadian physicians are allowed to prescribe more than 30 days of antibiotics without risk of sanctions or loss of their medical license. This is why many Islanders are leaving P.E.I. in order to seek effective diagnosis and treatment in Maine.
The boogey man of “antibiotic resistance” is being used by Health P.E.I. to justify inaction—this false argument ignores the fact that Lyme is itself a serious debilitating disease, and a first cousin to syphilis. If it is not treated early when it can still be nipped in the bud, Lyme spreads throughout the body’s tissues and organs, becoming embedded and much more difficult to cure. Like syphilis, Lyme can even cross the blood-brain barrier and create plaques in the brain, like the tangles found in Alzheimer’s patients. Roughly 30-50 per cent of persons with Lyme fail the initial 30 day dose of antibiotic and continue to suffer from persistent debilitating symptoms. Evidence suggests that many of these “chronic Lyme” patients can be greatly improved and effectively cured with further antibiotic treatment.
While Health P.E.I. is busy arguing for complacency and the status quo, young juvenile ticks are now waking up across P.E.I. and looking for a bloodmeal. The recent 2017 study by Mount Allison University biologist Vett Lloyd found over 350 dangerous black-legged “deer” ticks in every county across the Island. Roughly 10 per cent of these ticks were infected with Lyme. Young juvenile tick nymphs are most active during the spring and early summer, and are responsible for most Lyme cases. Young school-age children aged five to 10 years old are the most likely to be bitten by an infected tick, according to CDC data.
It is critical to promote effective prevention strategies, and to remove any attached ticks as soon as possible. For this reason, the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme.org) is pleased to announce that it that will provide a free tick removal kit to any elementary school in P.E.I. upon request. This brand-new pilot project by CanLyme is only being offered to P.E.I. schools at this time. Parents and grandparents are encouraged to discuss this Lyme issue with teachers and principals who may wish to request a free tick removal kit on behalf of their students.
Chris Robinson is the P.E.I. director of CanLyme.org.