Lyme: Did You Know...?

…that 85% of Ontario Lyme patients who contracted the disease within the province between 2002 and 2006, contracted it in areas not considered to be endemic for Lyme. The perception of most Canadians is that if an area is considered by public health authorities to be endemic for Lyme (or any other disease), then avoiding that area means avoiding the possiblity of contracting the disease. Many Lyme sufferers have found out the hard way that isn't the case. Lyme endemic areas are those in which ticks that carry the disease are known to have established a permanent foothold. That doesn't mean Lyme infected ticks aren't hanging out in other regions. Or, to put it another way, public health authorities can say with a high degree of certainty where Lyme infected ticks are hanging out, but they can't say with any degree of certainty where they aren't hanging out. A study examining this issue was published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Vector Ecology.

…that although 13 “confirmed” cases of Lyme disease were officially logged by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in 2007, doctors in that province actually diagnosed more that 220 cases that year. Lyme disease shares with West Nile virus and tuberculosis the somewhat dubious distinction of being classified as a reportable disease in British Columbia. (Lyme became nationally reportable in 2009.) This means that when a doctor diagnosis a case of Lyme disease, he or she is required to report it to public health authorities who track trends for certain infectious illnesses and take action when they notice any alarming changes. Clearly doctors weren’t living up to their reporting obligations back in 2007 and a recent follow-up survey suggests they still aren’t. An article on the most recent doctor survey was published in the Vancouver Sun on April 29, 2012.

…that despite being identified as an illness way back in the late-1970s, there is currently no working definition of Lyme disease that all parties involved in the debate can agree on. The most conservative definition identifies Lyme disease as an infection with Borrelia burgdorferi and only Borrelia burgdorferi. The most liberal definition identifies it as a complex of tick-borne pathogens over which Borrelia burgdorferi, when present, is dominant. These are just two of several competing definitions with no consensus on which one should prevail. Until there is a working definition of Lyme disease that most involved in the Lyme debate can agree on, the controversy over who has the illness and who does not will surely rage on.