Whats driving the explosion in Lyme Disease in Canada?
Today disease a complicated disease that we are having trouble testing for a disease. We never expected to see with any regularity in Canada only to realize perhaps too late. Maybe that was Donald. No this is not a new virus from across the world world. It's not some weird superbug. It's not particularly contagious illness. You probably don't think much about until it makes headlines because somebody famous something was wrong with Justin Bieber last year and we saw him with visas. Arm We we now know what was going on here. Justin Bieber has lime disease but it is a mistake to think of lyme disease as a rare illness because all of the data we have and we still don't have enough shows that it is exploding in Canada with numbers of confirmed cases spiking every year. Get One guess as to why but even that is not the key problem here what we need to figure out and fast is a comprehensive way to test for your dial and treat lyme disease because that's where we lag behind almost everybody else. I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings. This is the big story. Janet sperling is a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta. She is also a board member number on the Canadian lyme Disease Foundation. Hello Janna why. Don't you just start I think all of us the term but maybe just explain what what lime disease is sure. Lime disease is one of the more complicated things you would hope that I should be able to say. Oh lime disease is You know a bacterial curiel owners and it's transmitted by tick but unfortunately when you peek under the covers it gets a little more complicated so if you go to the government of Canada website. And you'll see that lyme disease is Berea Bergdorf Ri- and you say Oh. Okay that's nice and easy I can follow what they're trying to say but now if we just step over the border a little bit to Minnesota and we look up the male clinic they say lyme disease is four main species of bacteria and then they list four types of Berea so now you know your head is spinning you say okay. Well what do they say in Europe so if we go due to Europe and we go for example to Germany we see lyme disease is caused by spy. Rookie Berea Bergdorf. Wry sense allow to which means it's a whole bunch of different Burrito So this is part of the reason that we're ending up with a really complicated answer to what ought not be a very simple question. Why do various countries disagree so much on precisely what it is? That's not the case with most of viruses or diseases. I assume right and I think this is one of the things when I first started like you know back in the nineteen eighties and I took my medical entomology. They said lime disease is a disease it happens in North America. It's transmitted by so I wrote that down on my exam tonight. Got One hundred percent and everybody said great and I said to myself boy. I'm caught. I live in Canada. 'cause I don't need to worry about lyme disease but the more we started to find out notable lime disease and the more we realized it is actually in Europe. It's been in Europe for a very very long time for example You know it sees the iceman man who was found You know he's Bronze Age. I think you know we back in a gleese your those fraud. He had evidence of lime disease. So we know you you know. We've had lyme disease around for a long time. People just didn't recognize it as lime disease so the more you look into it. The more you see that this is something that's called us a Nautica Kasese so it's found circulating in the wildlife and then he kinda jumps over to the people although the disease itself Rigas and aiming for are people so this isn't something like measles measles something that goes from one person to the other person. This is something that's circulating in. It's got Birds is involved in this cycle. It's got animals. You know deer mice all sorts of things so this is why it just becomes more and more complicated. The more you look at it and and of course as a person who's suffering from lung disease you really don't care about all that background just saying I'm sick. Just get better and that advantage of being a bacteria tirrenia is that means we can use antibiotics so I think previously people were being treated for lyme disease without even actually recognizing was lime disease. assise they had antibiotics for some other reasons. They got better. Everybody said okay. I don't know what it was but they're better now. We're very concerned that we want want to make sure that we don't over use the antibiotics so that ends up making it even more complicated so we have the people we know they're sick. We know that got got bit by a tick. We know that something is wrong so some of the doctors are saying okay. We'll give them the antibiotic conceive to get better so those people all say. I think it's lyme disease and other people say I don't think it was on disease at all. It was something else it was transmitted by tick. But it wasn't lime disease so now we've taken a really complicated problem and we've really muddied the waters. We have people who say I have lime disease and other people who say whatever it was. It wasn't lime disease but I'm glad they got better so if the waters are so muddy and to your point the description you gave about learning about lyme disease in the eighties was precisely as much much as I knew about. LYME disease period Why are we discussing it so much more frequently right now? Are we seeing spike. Absolutely and I think it's certainly only with the global climate change we're getting the tick has expanded its range so you know back in the nineteen eighties. Certainly ticks. Albertus stopped about sort of middle. The problems you didn't have to go very far. Well now. They're all the way out into the Yukon. So this is something that's changed. It's it's new. I think we've always had you know a a couple of topics here and there and the other place but now it's much bigger. We know that most Canadians live right along the US border so we know most of our population is sort of super at risk as the ticks start moving north. Do we have a sense of how quickly the problem is getting worse like. Do you guys have have numbers on no matter how quickly the number of cases arising well we don't we don't have numbers because the numbers are set to be very very specific to Berea Maria br door fry and then it's particular string thirty one that somebody described in Boston Massachusetts lyme Connecticut down in that end so for Canada. It's kind of difficult to say can say you know if you're looking very strictly for one type of Lyme disease we know that the numbers have increased hugely sleep but we also know it would be kind of unlikely that we're just Columbia would have exactly the same type of lime disease as Boston Massachusetts. You know there's a latta kilometers in between the two and then also There's huge mountain range and then to make at one stage more complicated the even have different species of tick so this is where people get annoyed because they say I'm sick. I think I have lime disease because you treated me as though I have lime disease but still it's been denied as being lined disease or even anything like lyme disease. Why don't we have a simple test that can categorize it as one of what may be many kinds of lyme disease for instance right? Well we do if your dog so if your dog your jet can in Cohen tests the dog and say okay you have a sick dog. The dog is Being picked up to have this general sense of this says lyme disease lyme Berea of some sort so your vet will probably just treat your dog and say I'm calling lime disease good enough for me taking antibiotics and get better. Okay but humans but humans don't have exactly the same immune response so a dog has a much stronger immune response so it makes it easier when you're a VAT and and also with the humans. People are so readable antibiotics that you have to absolutely meal the diagnosis before they're willing to give you the antibiotics in the first place and that makes sense because we have talked on this podcast in the past about the need to not use antibiotics. Unless it's serious I guess what's flung meal. A little bit is that this can be a disease. That's it's on the rise that's diagnosed in many places around the world and they're still not the same kind of credible test that can determine like okay. You need antibiotics. Let's go right and I think partly it's because it circulates among birds. It circulates among various little mice and small rooms all the way up to deer and that each one of these animals. This part of this really complicated cycle the deer can actually clear the infection so for example if I had a tick and I knew that that had most recently fed on a bird I would be quite worried or if I knew had most recently said on a most but if I knew knew that the last thing that tick fed on was a dear I wouldn't be very worried at all I would say. Oh okay. Fortunately that's very low risk from that particular tech so this is where I think people especially if your doctor and you've got somebody and they have very nonspecific symptoms because that's one of the problems. There's nothing that's really obviously. This is exactly lime disease. You know you can't stand the front of the room and say okay. People have lime disease and these people don't have lime disease so oh you look people. They've got these nonspecific symptoms. And you're saying I know they're sick but I just don't know what it is. We're going to start looking at a lot of different things. So there's this a big list of differential diagnoses. You need to go through. And then when it gets the bottom of the list you always have lime disease. And that's something that was missed for for many many decades and for example I live in Alberta. And we're still told. Oh you can't have lime disease because you live in Berta but the silly thing is to people travel awful and when people are traveling. It doesn't matter where I live. Where my house addresses if I live in Alberta maybe got it in California maybe I got it in Toronto? Well in speaking of California you probably knew at some point in this interview. I was going to mention Justin Bieber. Indeed and it gets back to kind of the problem that you're describing reading because when celebrities like that come out and announced that they've been battling lyme disease it often seems like he has the best medical care in the world right. He compay millions of dollars for the very best doctors and yet still People were worrying about him for months before he came forward. Exactly and that's I think it's actually shiver common story and if you were to take your average Canadian. Generally they're healthy people. They're living their lives eating wells sleeping well plenty of exercise and and then suddenly something happens. They get sick and they don't even necessarily associated with tick bite and especially in a place where you're not expecting to run into ticks like downtown Toronto. You might not think about it and as you get. sicker and sicker and sicker. Lime disease isn't even on the radar so it takes long time to figure out what it is and the problem with lyme disease is if you catch it early. It's very easy to treat. Take your antibiotics into the story. But if you don't catch catch it and it goes on for a long time like weeks or months or sometimes even years. It's really hard to treat people were saying and this is why I wanted to ask you about like how it presents. How the disease presents because people were saying that it looked like Justin had lapsed and that he was an addict and that he was really struggling with substance abuse? Right you and and I think that that's actually remarkably common and a lot of people find that obviously really hurtful and you can certainly understand and why if you've been