Lyme disease forgotten

The newspaper published an excellent file just before the holidays on the Lyme disease. It revealed the horror stories of people suffering, of incomplete diagnoses and of difficulty in obtaining care. In one case, illness and lack of solutions drove a woman in her forties to suicide.

Still little known, this disease is transmitted to humans by blacklegged ticks. The risk is particularly great if you walk in nature, in tall grass for example.

The tick sticks to your skin and feeds on some of your blood. Its bite is painless, but if your tick happens to carry the bacteria associated with Lyme disease, it may have just ruined a few weeks, months, or even years of your life.

More patients, more regions

We have been hearing about Lyme disease for twenty years in Quebec. Initially, each case was an event, a curiosity. And since the ticks carrying the bacteria arrive from the United States, we found them strictly in Estrie and Montérégie, in the localities near the border.

From a rare disease localized to a restricted territory, Lyme disease has today become a much greater threat. There are now hundreds of cases and we find them in greater Montreal, in the Laurentians, in Outaouais, in Lanaudière, in Mauricie and in Centre-du-Québec.

The trend seems quite clear: within a few years, Lyme disease will strike thousands of Quebecers every year, in almost all of our inhabited territory. What is worrying is that Lyme disease seems neither well diagnosed nor adequately monitored.

Some experts will tell you that the first consequence of Quebec’s weakness in effectively addressing this disease leads us to underestimate the number. Perhaps we have already had thousands of cases in recent years in Quebec.

Failures

It may well be that we miss a good part of the diagnoses. In the case of people who do not have symptoms that are too serious, their problems will be associated with another illness and they will get out of it after a month or two without ever having known their real health problem.

What is much more serious is the case of patients who are very sick and sometimes for a long time. I’ve been picking up the stories of breathless patients over the past few days. Access to health resources is an obstacle course.

Some go for treatment or have blood tests in the United States, where the disease is better known and the laboratories better equipped. Others go from one doctor to another to be heard. Voluntary associations with limited means try to make the voice of patients heard.

Last spring, INESSS published a catch-up plan for Quebec regarding Lyme disease. Long live the action!

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