COVID-19 in the Lyme World

I’m sure I’m not the only Lyme advocate to be closely watching COVID-19. It appears that there are quite a few similarities between COVID-19 and Lyme disease, such as: listing only select symptoms (although symptom list is growing); only giving tests to people with certain symptoms; false negative tests; disputes on treatment; some people having the virus but not having symptoms; people with weakened immune systems having worse symptoms; lingering symptoms after treatment; and people dying of underlying issues, exacerbated by COVID-19.

Oh, and a vaccine Is being developed, yet we are still learning more about the virus and we cannot yet say, with certainty, who isn’t already carrying COVID-19. It has been suggested that the virus has already mutated in some areas so we also do not know if a vaccine would work for future mutations.

As well, the use of “confirmed and probable” cases raises a red flag. We know that with Lyme a significant number of cases are being missed. This is even more concerning with COVID-19 because it can apparently be transmitted to others quite easily so those with a false negative or asymptomatic could be infecting many others while under the mistaken belief that they are fine.

However, the parallels end there. With COVID-19, doctors seem to have some flexibility regarding treatment, dependent upon symptoms. If a patient is symptomatic, yet the test is negative, doctors can, and will, treat. If one treatment isn’t working, another can be tried. A significant amount of money has been designated to find better, quicker, testing methods and appropriate treatments.

With Lyme, doctors are expected to follow the same treatment guidelines, no matter what symptoms, or what stage. If the test comes back negative, patients are told they do not have Lyme, even if symptoms would suggest otherwise. If treatment doesn’t eliminate symptoms, patients are told they have Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome and that their Lyme is gone.

Most are concerned about COVID-19 and will do what is necessary to prevent transmission, although there are those that seem to believe it’s not an issue. It seems that the only people worried about Lyme and Tick-borne diseases are those dealing with them. Many, including some doctors, believe Lyme doesn’t exist, is a scam, or is nothing more than a rash and flu-like symptoms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many deaths are being attributed to COVID-19 with any underlying health issues not being noted. This skews the numbers for COVID-19 and the underlying illnesses. With Lyme disease, the exact opposite is frequently happening. The resultant illnesses, caused due to the ongoing effects of Lyme and Tick-borne diseases on the body, are considered the cause of death.

It’s time to take a serious look at Lyme and Tick-borne diseases in Canada. Patients need to be listened to, not ridiculed and told that their symptoms are all in their head. Doctors willing to help their patients need to be allowed some flexibility in how they diagnose and treat. A standard set of guidelines for an illness that can affect everyone differently, with some experiencing only minor issues, and others being severely debilitated – does not make sense.

On a final note, also of considerable concern to the Lyme community is that COVID-19 has affected the ability for those affected by a tick bite to be diagnosed and treated. As well, those undergoing treatment are frequently seeing medical professionals outside their province/country, or seeing alternative/complementary health care professionals. During COVID-19, many have been unable to continue treatment and are left to their own resources. Others are finding it difficult to obtain a diagnosis because the focus is entirely on COVID-19. With a few similar symptoms, there can also be confusion as to whether you have COVID-19, Lyme, or other Tick-borne diseases. This can delay treatment.

COVID-19 is serious, but Lyme can be as well. We cannot afford to continue to ignore all else while dealing with this present pandemic.

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