DENY, DECRY, DEFY Manitobans wage war with Lyme disease, skeptical doctors

Excerpted from WinnipegFreePress ( Posted: 09/10/2011)

Ernie Murakami, a former British Columbia doctor who was pressured to stop practising medicine by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons because of his focus on and treatment of Lyme patients, said the disease is misunderstood. He says the medical profession is in denial about what he calls a “major epidemic.”

Elizabeth Wood was 37 years old in July 1985 when she was bitten by a tick while visiting her parents’ home along the Red River north of Emerson.

She recalls having difficulty removing the insect, which fastened itself on one of her legs. A few weeks later, she got a rash.

Today, the combination of a tick bite and a rash within 30 days would alert most, if not all, family doctors to the likelihood of Lyme disease. Caught early, it’s easy to treat with antibiotics.

But a quarter-century ago, little was known about Lyme disease in Manitoba. Health officials didn’t believe it was endemic to the province. In fact, the first doctor-reported case in Manitoba did not occur until 1999, and the first confirmed case — using a strict federal Health Department definition — wasn’t registered until 2006.

Wood, who now chairs a Manitoba Lyme disease advocacy group, was told by a doctor at a Winnipeg clinic 26 years ago that she had poison ivy. She thought she knew a thing or two about poison ivy and didn’t buy it.

She later developed severe flu-like symptoms that doctors now link to Lyme disease: head and muscle aches, joint pain, fatigue.

“It was like a nightmare, was what it was,” Wood said in a recent interview at her Emerson home.

And it still is. More than a quarter-century after that tick bite, Wood’s condition has not greatly improved. She and her husband have spent thousands of dollars of their own money travelling to the United States for diagnosis and treatment for herself and their daughter, whom they believe also has Lyme disease.

Wood is not alone. An untold number of Manitobans with chronic Lyme disease symptoms — including a former deputy minister of health (see sidebar, page J5) — have gone looking for answers outside the province when doctors here failed to help them.

Ernie Murakami, a former British Columbia doctor who was pressured to stop practising medicine by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons because of his focus on and treatment of Lyme patients, said the disease is misunderstood. He says the medical profession is in denial about what he calls a “major epidemic.”

“It’s criminal what’s happening in Canada,” he said in an interview from Hope, B.C., where he was once chief of staff at the Fraser Canyon Hospital. “People are having to go across the border (to the U.S.) at tremendous expense to get treatment.”

The B.C.-based Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation believes there are thousands of cases such as Wood’s in Canada. Many of those patients are confined to wheelchairs, debilitated by the disease’s symptoms and unable to work.

For the complete article: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/deny-decry-defy-manitobans-wage-war-with-lyme–disease-skeptical-doctors-129577593.html

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~ by Rob on September 12, 2011.

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