Aussie Lyme sufferers fear being branded crazy
A SENATE Inquiry into the existence of a tick-borne illness in Australia similar to Lyme disease has slapped the medical establishment on the wrist, saying it needs to stop treating patients with Lyme-like symptoms as "crazy".
The Inquiry delivered its final report at the end of November and among its 12 recommendations was a call for "urgent" funding for more research into local tick-borne diseases.
It also sought to end the stigmatization of patients who claim to have Lyme disease because it doesn't officially exist in Australia.
"That people report avoiding engagement with medical staff at Australian hospitals for fear of being branded 'crazy' is concerning," the report said.
"That some patients are contemplating suicide as a result, in part, of their distress at not receiving what they believe to be proper medical attention and care, is profoundly disquieting."
The report argued that action is needed now to improve both research and patient care, at the same time.
"This evidence is needed, and urgently, but so is treatment for patients who are unwell now.
"Patients cannot be asked to wait. The science will catch up, and it is critical that funding be made available for this to happen."
According to lobby group the Lyme Disease Association of Australia, evidence of the borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease was identified in Australian ticks more than 20 years ago.
The research by Dr Michelle Wills in the early 1990s was confirmed by US Lyme disease pioneer Professor Alan Barbour's researchers.
It was also reported on at the time in by the ABC's 7.30 Report.
Dr Wills' research was also referenced in the Senate Inquiry.
LDAA president Sharon Whiteman blamed "medical ego" for the uphill battle faced by Australians trying to get treatment for Lyme-like medical symptoms.
"It's not based on science," she said.
"The science would be curious, asking why are these people's sick, instead of denigrating these patients and denying them care."
Ms Whiteman said the argument that Lyme didn't exist in Australia was based on the fact that the exact strain in the US didn't exist here, but that was a "1970s argument".
"In the US they are finding a new strain of tick disease every year," she said.
"I believe they will find multiple strains once they start using modern technology and approaching it scientifically."
"Hundreds of Australians get sick every year after tick bites."
The LDAA is calling for urgent action on the Senate Inquiry's recommendations.