B.C. dogs get better Lyme treatment than people
Because disease rarely detected in humans, infected often denied cure
By David Cubberly, Special to Times ColonistJuly 6, 2010
It's astounding that a single Victoria veterinarian sees more Lyme disease in dogs yearly than are "confirmed" by the Centre for Disease Control for humans across B.C. ("Tests spot tick-borne disease in retriever," June 26).
How can it be that we see only four to six cases a year of Lyme in humans if one vet sees a case a month of tick-borne disease in dogs (and most often Lyme)?
I hope the standard of care given Annie the retriever will one day be available to people in B.C. Right now it's not. Annie's vet suspected tick-borne illness, recognized the need to test for Lyme disease and knew enough to also test for other tick-borne illnesses.
Humans come to doctors with known symptoms of tick-borne illness, yet often face incomprehension or worse.
The few suspected of having Lyme face a flawed test that misses most Lyme disease, which allows those responsible to continue claiming that the disease is rare.
What's rare about Lyme is its detection in humans, which denies many infected people prompt access to cure.
Annie's vet began treating her immediately with antibiotics, based on clinical diagnosis -- something our doctors are said to be able to do, but rarely can.
Antibiotics are typically withheld from humans unless a blood test "proves" there's Lyme disease, which it rarely does in B.C. Really unlucky people -- those who get chronic Lyme disease because their initial infection isn't treated -- are typically denied antibiotics entirely.
Annie's vet also understands that an array of disease can be communicated by ticks and arranged a battery of tests. If B.C. doctors are reluctant to test for Lyme disease, they're even less likely to order tests for infections like Babesiosis or Bartonella. (It turned out in the end that Annie had Erlichiosis, not Lyme.)
Annie's vet ordered the tests through a California lab, with reliable results, and Annie's owner privately paid. Yet when people pay out of pocket to have themselves tested in California, B.C. health care refuses to accept the results as diagnostic of Lyme disease and denies them access to antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics are the only medicine effective in treating Lyme disease.
Compared to humans, dogs enjoy an enviable standard of care for Lyme and other tick-borne infections. In fact, it would be more accurate to say people face a standard of neglect in B.C. today, and that those responsible have their heads firmly planted in the sand.
David Cubberley is a director of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation and former MLA for Saanich South.
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This blog is about the rise of Lyme disease and other tick borne infections, in British Columbia and across Canada, and the failure of public health agencies to adequately warn and protect the public from this debilitating disease. Its purpose is to alert people to a danger that increasingly surrounds them, in the outdoors and in their backyards, and to pressure government, opinion leaders and public health officials to reform the medical framework for Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. Today, due to faulty tests, lack of physician knowledge and inadequate treatment protocols, many patients are being forced to live with a devastating chronic illness rather than being given medically necessary care. Most have to travel to the United States to purchase healthcare they are entitled to under law in Canada, but currently denied. Many people are living in poverty as a result of personally financing antibiotics, which are the sole control and cure for chronic Lyme disease. This blog discusses issues and offers resources relating to Lyme disease diagnosis and cure. It aspires to be an instrument of change.