Action on Lyme Disease required

Neville urges Minister for Health to take action on Lyme disease
Fine Gael TD for Limerick, Party Chairperson and founder of the Irish Suicidology Association, Dan Neville, this week in Dáil Éireann raised the very important issue of Lyme disease with the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD.
“Lyme disease, known as the great imitator, is an extremely debilitating disease and an issue about which many people have contacted me. Lyme borreliosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of hard-bodied ticks, it can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe and therefore diagnosis is often a major problem.
“The Minister for Health is well aware of the stages of Lyme disease as it develops; within days after being bitten by a tick, a rash may occur, the patient may experience flu-like symptoms, neck pain, swollen glands, bell’s palsy and severe fatigue are also common. As the disease advances the patient may suffer from cardiac problems, bladder irritation in the form of cystitis and later from neurological changes such as tingling, numbness and tremors. Early treatment is vital to prevent serious consequences.
“Patients have called urgently for the establishment of a group by the HSE to examine the whole area of Lyme disease. This group should include a range of expertise including infectious disease consultants, GPs, international Lyme disease experts and patients’ representatives. It should also consult with a number of other experts on patient symptoms including chronic pain specialists, neurologists, rheumatologists, paediatricians and obstetricians. Patients also feel that up-to-date training on Lyme disease should be offered to GPs as part of their continuing professional development. Public health nurses should also receive training on the effects of the disease, particularly on children.
“In his response, Minister Varadkar informed me that there is an ongoing publicity campaign in regard to Lyme disease. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is finalising the establishment of a Lyme borreliosis sub-committee with the primary aim to examine best practice in prevention and surveillance of Lyme disease, and to develop strategies to minimise harm caused by Lyme borreliosis in Ireland.
“There were 20 cases of Lyme borreliosis notified in 2013 and 8 cases notified in 2012. However, due to the diverse and unspecific nature of the symptoms a number of the less serious cases may not be diagnosed, leading to an under-reporting of cases. Recent estimates suggest that there may be up to 50 to 100 cases in Ireland per year.
“Each year, the HPSC holds a Lyme disease awareness week and the Minister outlined that the number of notified cases of Lyme disease will most probably be down on those for 2013.
“I appreciate the Minister’s response and I will continue to raise this important issue with my colleagues in Government.”