Lyme disease awareness being raised

A woman with Lyme disease and a Central Alberta MLA are fighting to help those affected by the sometimes debilitating illness.

A woman with Lyme disease and a Central Alberta MLA are fighting to help those affected by the sometimes debilitating illness.

Tammy Loeffler, 45, of Red Deer, was finally diagnosed with Lyme in April after the disease took hold three years ago.

“What I’ve got now is chronic Lyme disease. My chance of full recovery is not good,” said Loeffler, who is now on antibiotic treatment for the infectious disease spread by ticks.

Her symptoms started in January 2011 after returning from a vacation in the Mayan Riviera.

They included eye pain, weight loss, burning body pain, swelling on the left side of her face and weakness in her left leg.

She saw 14 specialists in an effort to identify what was wrong. She has since developed cataracts and hearing loss and takes several medications to ease her symptoms.

Since her diagnosis, Loeffler knows she’s not alone. And she’s actually in better shape than others with chronic Lyme disease.

“They’re not even able to work so I’m trying to increase awareness on their behalf,” Loeffler said.

Meanwhile, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Bruce Rowe is trying to grab the provincial government’s attention.

“It’s a bad situation that’s getting worse, and it’s a lot more prevalent than people think,” said the Wildrose MLA about Lyme disease.

“I have attended four fundraising events for patients because they are being hit with astronomical costs to get treated in the States, and in fact get tested in the States.”

Recently in the legislature, he presented case histories from eight Lyme patients complete with test results. He also sent the case histories to Health Minister Fred Horne, who requested the information.

Rowe said he has not yet heard back from Horne.

Lyme is now endemic across Canada, said Rowe, who has been in contact with an MLA in Nova Scotia trying to bring attention to the disease in that province.

Rowe said in Alberta it seems as if the medical community refuses to recognize the disease.

“There is a whole lot of work that needs to be done and I just hope shining a light on it will get some action.”

Over the summer, he wants to collect more case histories from Lyme patients and take them to the legislature.

“I’d like to table a wheelbarrel full,” Rowe said.

Loeffler said everyone is at risk and Alberta has the chance to become a pioneer in the treatment and prevention of the disease.

“I just think we have an opportunity,” Loeffler said.

On April 30, Bill C-442, the National Lyme Disease Strategy Act, passed second reading in the House of Commons and has been sent to the House Standing Committee on Health for further study.

Introduced by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, the bill calls for the development of a national medical surveillance program to track incidence rates and associated economic costs of the disease; establish guidelines regarding prevention, identification, treatment; and recommend a national standard of care that reflects current best practices for treatment.

May is Lyme Awareness Month.

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