SOUTH East NSW is becoming recognised as a Lyme disease hotspot in Australia with the number of diagnosed cases doubling in the last 12 months.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases can have devastating effects on human life, yet they are not fully understood by the majority of the healthcare sector.
Worldwide Lyme Awareness Day on Saturday, May 17 focuses on the bacterial infection caught from tick bites.
With over half a million new cases of Lyme disease each year the awareness day highlights the need for education in the prevention and treatment of the disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
In Australia there is a need for Lyme and other tick-borne infections to be recognised as potentially serious diseases that require the urgent attention of governments and the medical community.
The local Lyme community is inviting you to join them for a screening of the award-winning documentary, Under Our Skin, which exposes the hidden story of Lyme disease. The documentary will be screening at the Bega Valley Public School Hall on May 17 at 7pm.
Narooma Lyme sufferer Greg Watts says this situation will continue until government health departments invest in research for accurate diagnosis and adequate treatment of these diseases.
Mr Watts has worked in east coast forests for 42 years and has received hundreds of tick bites in that time.
“I now know ticks are the ‘dirty needles’ of the arthropod world - one of those ticks injected me with Lyme and bartonella bacteria and the malaria-like protozoan babesia,” Mr Watts said.
“Many bites were accompanied by what I now know to be characteristic flu-like illness immediately after the bite. But at the time (early 1980s) these Lyme symptoms were not recognised.
“I then developed arthritis in my mid-20s, chronic fatigue in my 30s, and then neurologic symptoms - migraine headache, pins-and-needles and memory loss. The disease culminated in a haemorrhagic stroke in August 2012 from inflammation in the cerebellum.
“I saw scores of doctors over that time, but no-one could give me a diagnosis.”
Mr Watts eventually got a diagnosis from a US Lyme specialist in 2011, but found it hard to get Australian registered medical practitioners to manage his case.
“If you’ve ever been bitten by a tick and suffer some of those symptoms you should come to the screening of Under Our Skin and get informed,” Mr Watts said.
“I was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs for over 30 years to manage arthritis. A Lyme diagnosis and two months of antibiotic treatment and the arthritis has disappeared,” Mr Watts said.
Fellow Lyme sufferer Troy Stever from Tuross continues his battle with the disease. He has received two lots of the specialist treatment in Bali that made him feel marginally better but he is still having health issues.
He is not currently having any treatment for Lyme disease as he has a cyst on one of his kidneys that has doubled in size since it was first diagnosed.
The treatment for Lyme is contraindicated to the kidney cyst.
Troy’s wife Melissa said, “We are still weighing up the best options and seeing specialists”.
Attendees for the screening of Under Our Skin should RSVP to the Eventbrite web site at www.eventbrite.com.au/e/public-screening-under-our-skin-a-healthcare-nightmare-tickets-11249570769 for catering purposes.