Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lyme Disease

From Hansard, May 19, 2010.
L. Popham: Mr. Speaker, May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is North America's fastest-rising infectious disease. It's utterly debilitating if not detected and treated with antibiotics, which rarely happens in British Columbia. People get Lyme disease from ticks. Ticks are sneaky. They anaesthetize their bites so they can feed in peace. Western black-legged ticks abound here, and up to 10 percent now carry Lyme in endemic areas like the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island.
May is awareness month because it starts a fresh tick season, the time when nymphal ticks, no larger than a speck of pepper, lurk on tips of long spring grasses, waiting for a blood meal to pass by. Risk of infection can be greatly reduced if we know what precautions to take, what places and actions to avoid, like playing in tall grass while wearing shorts. 

Being Lyme-aware is vital for children in suburban schools next to wooded areas frequented by deer. There are many such schools in B.C. 

Today our public health officials are silent on the rising risk of Lyme disease. However, there are signs that our local schools are taking the risks to children more seriously. At Rogers Elementary in Saanich South, the May newsletter has a tick alert that's informative, non-alarmist and tells parents what to avoid, what to look for and what to do if a tick is discovered. That's prevention as it should be practised. 

It inspires me today, in Lyme Disease Awareness Month, to urge our public health agencies to get serious about reducing public exposure to this preventable, debilitating and largely untreated illness.