Battle for Laura: doctors take on NSW Health over girl’s crippling disease

Excerpted from The Sydney Morning Herald ( Posted: 02/20/2012)

A six-year-old Newcastle girl is at the centre of a major medical storm over whether a debilitating tick-borne disease exists in Australia.

Laura France was diagnosed with Lyme disease late last year following tests done on her blood in the US.

Her family and several doctors are convinced she has the illness, caused by a tick bite, but NSW Health disagrees.

The department says the disease does not exist in Australia and will not fund any treatment for it.

The family is paying $3000 a month for medication typically used to treat Lyme disease.

Laura has trouble walking, struggles to catch her breath, suffers from severe headaches and is lucky to make it through a full day of school.

Michelle France said that at night her daughter had trouble sleeping, cried and complained of constant aches and pains.

“On a daily basis it’s hard, we have had to buy a stroller to get her around, she is exhausted after walking short distances,” Mrs France said.

“It’s bad enough that Laura is sick, but the battle to find help has been a nightmare.”

Since the December diagnosis the Frances have found themselves thrust into an academic battle over Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by ticks that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with up to 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Left untreated it can become crippling.

The first reported case of Lyme disease in Australia, based on clinical symptoms, was from the Hunter in 1982.

According to the NSW Ministry of Health, Australian animals do not carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the microscopic Borrelia burgdorferi.

For the complete article:

~ by Rob on February 20, 2012.

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