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Advocates call for better testing protocols

One of the biggest problems associated with Lyme disease in Canada is the ineffective testing used to diagnose it, says the president of a national association dedicated to raising awareness about the issue.

Jim Wilson

“The testing is flawed, and governments really need to do something about it,” said British Columbia-based Jim Wilson of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme).

A blatant disregard for people with medical conditions related to Lyme disease has been going on for decades in Canada, he said, and thousands of people are struggling every day to cope with a disease that is not only difficult to treat, but equally difficult to diagnose.

Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites. The most common Lyme carrier is the black-legged or deer tick, according to

“Testing protocols were set 21 years ago. Unfortunately they were poorly designed and thought out, and even if a doctor did suspect it, the blood tests almost always came back negative, regardless of the results,” said Wilson.

“So, doctors are trained to respond to blood tests. They look at the negative results and say, ‘OK, you don’t have Lyme, so we think it is all in your head,’” he said.

Wilson said it’s common for some infectious-disease doctors to train others to send patients who believe they have chronic Lyme disease to a psychiatrist, “which is absolutely bizarre medical advice.”

The small stride that has been made took place in British Columbia. In 2010, the government allowed naturopathic doctors to prescribe treatments, which has resulted in a few of them becoming experts at diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, he said. As a result, patients are heading to B.C. from across Canada and the United States.

“We need to get more doctors looking at this seriously, but it has to come from the provincial ministers of health, who have to start listening to the experts and their patients,” Wilson said.

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