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Hundreds attend Lyme Awareness Event at Pictou County Wellness Centre

A hand raised during the Q&A portion of a Lyme Disease Awareness Event held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Sept. 6
A hand raised during the Q&A portion of a Lyme Disease Awareness Event held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre on Sept. 6 - Brendan Ahern

Nova Scotia Health Authority and Department of Health and Wellness were no-shows at the event

PICTOU, N.S. —

Close to 300 people attended an event Sept. 6 at the Pictou County Wellness Centre held to offer a perspective on how Lyme disease is treated by some doctors in the United States.

“We knew there would be a big turnout for the public session, everyone is curious,” said Amy Haynes-Desjardins who, with Jennifer MacLean began organizing the event in Spring.

The public portion of the event began at 7 p.m. but the start-time was delayed in order to find extra seats for the nearly 300 people who attended.

Attendees heard from Dr. Richard Dubocq and Dr. Marty Ross, who both run practices in the United States that treat Lyme disease.

“It’s wonderful to have this,” said Rob Murray, a retired dentist from Lunenburg county who drove to Pictou to attend the event. “Hopefully, it starts momentum and keeps it in front of people, but this is a very difficult situation to turn around.”

Lyme disease has a history of conflict in Canada and the United States where the protocols followed by public health authorities are viewed by some as being inadequate at diagnosing and treating it.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America’s (IDSA) guidelines for diagnosing and treating Lyme disease used in both countries, calls for 21 days of antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease patients.

These are the guidelines followed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

However, an international nonprofit organization called the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) follows different guidelines and recommends four to six weeks of antibiotic treatment. Both Dubocq and Ross follow ILADS guidelines.

In an attempt to bring officers with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and Department of Health and Wellness (DHW) under the same roof as two doctors with ILADS, Haynes-Desjardins and MacLean also hosted a session earlier in the day for healthcare providers only.

“We hoped for a large crowd for the healthcare providers session and were pleased to have 82 in the audience,” said Haynes-Desjardins in an email, adding that the room comprised of medical doctors, naturopathic doctors and nurses, but to her knowledge no officials from either the NSHA or the DHW were present.

“They were invited but no, not to our knowledge.”

In the summer, on July 15, both Haynes-Desjardins and MacLean personally invited the regional medical officer of health in the NSHA, Dr. Ryan Sommers, to the event.

Amy Hayne-Desjardins speaking with Dr. Sommers outside of Pictou Municipal Council Chambers on July 15.

Amy Hayne-Desjardins speaking with Dr. Sommers outside of Pictou Municipal Council Chambers on July 15.

In an email sent on Sept 5, Sommers told The News that he and other Nova Scotia physicians were concerned about the quality of information being shared at the session on Friday.

“A number of Nova Scotian physicians and I are very concerned that this event will present harmful misinformation about Lyme disease management and practices,” he said adding that answers to a list of questions which he sent to organizers intended for the visiting doctors, Ross and Dubocq was never returned to him.

“I was hoping to get a better idea of the evidence these particular visiting US Physicians use to inform their practice and to determine if this is high-quality information,” he said.

The DHW also emphasized its commitment to following current IDSA guidelines.

“Nova Scotia uses peer-reviewed research while making evidence-based decisions on Lyme disease,” said media relations advisor to the DHW Heather Fairbairn in an email adding that DHW had received an invitation but that representatives could not be sent during preparations for hurricane Dorian.

Nonetheless, organizers of Friday’s event were happy with the results.

“We felt it was a fabulous success, mission accomplished for now,” said Hayne-Desjardins. “We are setting up a support group for our community, although we have many more plans for the future.”

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