We are coming to the end of May which has historically been known as Lyme Disease Awareness Month, although ticks can be active any time temperatures are above freezing. May is when Proclamations are made, buildings are lit up lime green, and any marches or awareness events are usually held.
Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, very few events have happened around the world, but social media was abuzz during the month. However, for the most part, the information flowing on social media was from Lyme advocates, patients, and those with dogs – not from our local governments. For instance, even though the Premier of Nova Scotia signed a proclamation declaring May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month, I have seen nothing from the province advising of that fact, even after considerable prodding.
One such prod was an email I sent to both the Premier’s office and the Chief Medical Officer’s office on Friday, April 30th, which suggested that the regular COVID updates should include a mention of tick prevention as ticks seem to be quite an issue this year. With people spending more time outdoors for mental health purposes, it would have been very beneficial for the issue to be mentioned, as thousands of Nova Scotians listen to the COVID updates. Although I received responses advising that the emails were received, I never received a response from either office and I don’t believe anything has been mentioned during the COVID updates.
I’m also aware of a gentleman that sent a plea to the Premier requesting assistance in helping to raise awareness during Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The following is his first email, which was sent on April 27th (I say first as he sent subsequent ones requesting a response):
“I am sending this email to request your assistance in kicking off the Lyme+ Tick Disease Awareness Month in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Lyme Support Group has purchased 3 custom made ties and we are requesting that you, your minister of health and your chief medical officer wear the ties to help promote tick awareness and to also help educate Nova Scotians of the risks of tick bites and the diseases ticks are carrying. Thank you in advance for considering this request and please provide guidance on to who and where the ties can be delivered. “Education Is Key”! Please help us educate the people of Nova Scotia. Please contact the undersigned if you have any questions or if you require additional imformation (sic).”
Although he too received an email back stating that his was received, to date he has still not received a response, even though he, and several others, have followed up on the initial request. An email was sent to the Premier on May 18th and another on May 21st, which is as follows:
“I continue to receive an email thanking me for contacting your office. You are welcome. What Is needed and expected is an actual response to my request for you and your minister of health and your chief medical officer to wear customized ties to raise awareness about Lyme+ and tick illness during Lyme disease awareness month. I keep receiving notifications that you have received my request but I have yet to receive a response. The window is closing on Lyme disease awareness month and we need our Premier to help educate and raise awareness to let Nova Scotians know the risks associated with tick bites and especially the high risk that exist here in Nova Scotia. There are many people suffering from chronic tick illness in our province and they have been suffering in isolation during the Covid (sic) pandemic. I am pleading with you to be the Premier who finally acknowledges the tick threat as well as the diseases they are carrying. By wearing a tie you could potentially save someone’s life and at the same time provide some much needed hope to Nova Scotians and Maritimers who have been afflicted by tick disease, as well as to the people who are caring for and supporting someone with tick illness. CBC radio will be conducting a Tick/Lyme+ awareness program on Wednesday the 26th of May as part of the Maritime Noon broadcast. This would be a perfect day for you and your team to wear the ties. I listened to your Covid (sic) Update today and you and Dr Strang wore ties to celebrate Cape Breton’s resilience and strength. We could use just a little bit of both of those things right now. Please provide an address or a contact person and I will send the ties to a location of your choosing.”
He wrote two more in an attempt to receive a response prior to the end of May. They are as follows:
“I am following up yesterday’s email to request a response from your office. Some people who are included with this email traffic have also written to you to request that you respond to me. Another day has passed and I have yet to receive a response to my initial request dated the 27th of April. I’ve attached a picture of the map that was used to create the customized ties. The map hangs in Albion Maine where many Nova Scotians and Maritimers have had to travel to seek treatment for Lyme+/Tick Illness. Each tack on the map/tie represents someone who had to leave our country for a diagnoses and treatment. It was my hope that you would be the political leader who would finally provide some help and some hope. If you are not willing to wear the tie that is an acceptable position, but to not respond to my requests is unacceptable to me. I’ve included a photo of the map that I took when I travelled to Maine for treatment as well as a photo of the customized ties. Please save these photos for your reference and it is my hope that you will share them with your leadership team as well as health authority personnel. Those tacks on the map represent people and so do you. Ignoring this disease has cause a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, help us end the denial.”
“Lyme disease awareness month is coming to an end but Lyme disease and ticks don’t pay attention to a calendar. I am disappointed that you weren’t able to even find the time to reply to the numerous emails that were sent to you, I am more disappointed that the opportunity to educate Nova Scotians of the risks that ticks pose in our province was ignored. Education is crucial to ensure this zoonotic disease doesn’t destroy one more person or family. Lyme+ And Tick Illness advocates and activist are trying our best to raise awareness. All of our efforts to engage the NS medical authority and your government has been futile. The result of this denial will mean that there will be more tacks added to a map in another country. These people that can leave for help are the lucky ones, Imagine if this was you or your child, being very sick and having to leave our province our country for health care, or worse, not having the means to do so. This migration has been going on for years now. What is it going to take to get your government engaged? Please let us know, and we will do it. As I write this I am listening to your CBC radio briefing, It is enraging that you and your health authority have used all of your bandwidth to ignore us in both official languages.”
In a province that has the highest rate of Lyme in Canada you would expect more from our politicians and health care leaders. Unfortunately, there is a wall that has been built and we are unable to scale it on our own. I ask all of you that read this to voice your concern regarding the total disregard for Tick-borne diseases in this province. Yes, COVID is of utmost concern at the moment, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of all. It is worrisome to think how many more people have gotten a Tick-borne disease over the last 14 or so months while being told to go outdoors, but not being reminded to prevent tick bites.
As one of the first Canadian provinces to deal with disease carrying ticks, we should have a handle on this issue and although our Chief Medical Officer actually thinks that we do, I, and hundreds (if not thousands) of other Nova Scotians, would beg to differ.