Society using education to take a bite out of Lyme disease

By Josh Hall - RDNewsNow
May 4, 2018 - 1:15pm Updated: May 4, 2018 - 3:20pm

 RED DEER -- If you’ve ever been bitten by a tick, you’ll know the sense of panic that sets in before you can work on getting the bug out from underneath your skin.

Tick bites can lead to Lyme disease, an ailment curable if treated quickly, but if not can lead to numerous complications.

That’s where the Central Alberta Lyme Society (CALS), a relatively new group, comes in. CALS held an event last May for Lyme Disease Awareness Month, but has since evolved into an official society.

This May, they are reminding everyone to be tick aware.

“We're really focused on prevention, prevention, prevention,” says co-founder Echo Armstrong, who has Lyme herself. “We're selling tick removal kits, we're going to do some blitzes at dog parks. People are very interested in protecting themselves and their pets.”

More would be happening to mark the official month, but three of the society's board members recently suffered relapses.

CALS has tick removal kits for purchase.  

“In our kits come two little vials and a special card with how to put your tick in there, how to keep it properly so that it can be sent away for testing and then information on how to reach us and we can steer you in the right direction,” says Armstrong.

University of Alberta entomologist Janet Sperling said in a report last year that people bitten by ticks have a 1-in-5 chance of contracting Lyme disease.

Tips on avoiding ticks include tucking your pants into your socks, wearing a hat, and using bug repellant. Armstrong adds that it’s a myth that ticks only appear in tall grass.

“It’s any time you’re outside. Ticks don’t know boundaries,” she says. “They fall off migratory birds, off of deer. One lady we know got it in her backyard in Calgary doing leaf-keeping, just doing regular spring maintenance.”

Armstrong, who in the meantime deals with symptoms like muscle seizing, fatigue and twitches, says it took eight years for her to get a diagnosis. Her co-infection from the tick which bit her is known as Babesia, which can also lead to heart failure, low blood pressure, enlarged liver and dental problems, just to name a few.

She says even when patients show these and other classic signs of Lyme, doctors remain highly resistant in making a Lyme diagnosis.

“The science is really important, but so is caring and compassion,” she wishes to say to doctors. “People don’t just make up things. We're going in there seeking help and some sort of understanding, so I think the very least we should ask for and expect is some professional compassion towards us. When your patient tells you something, you should believe them, period.”

Other symptoms can affect your digestive and excretory systems, the respiratory and circulatory systems, they can be neurological, psychological and event affect reproduction and sexuality.

CALS has approximately 120 members and offers more information on Facebook.

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